The impacts of the pandemic have hit the tourism industry hard and regional areas are far from immune to the challenges being faced.
That’s the message from Australian Regional Tourism (ART) which is calling for targeted support for regional tourism businesses to not only bolster recovery now, but action to drive a stronger, more resilient industry for the future.
The end of JobKeeper payments in March signals extremely tough times are ahead for operators in some regional destinations, according to ART Chair Coralie Bell.
The end of government support is also exacerbated by domestic border closures.
Bell said that JobKeeper has been far from a perfect solution, sometimes causing a range of other challenges, including ability to access and keep skilled staff.
She also said that frustrations are now brewing around the perception that tourism in regional Australia has recovered, when the overly optimistic sentiment could not be further from reality.
“Positive signs are visible in some destinations, with businesses experiencing good trade over the recent summer weeks, but the goal of ‘recovery’ is far from achieved,” Bell said.
“There have been enough handouts, we want to see the industry come out of bushfires and COVID-19 stronger and ready to thrive – not just survive until the money stops.”
ART is calling on governments to partner with industry to provide support that is linked to outcomes that strengthen the industry to not only survive, but to develop robust businesses ready to pull through future challenges.
“All levels of government need to work together to enable key infrastructure to support tourism growth into the future, from new parks to sporting precincts, better tourism road access and more global connectivity, the lists are already put together – let’s get it done,” she said.
“The growth of sustainable businesses in regional Australia is not a new conversation, the needs of industry are as they’ve always been with the urgency skyrocketing, but this doesn’t mean more public money handouts.”