Tourism chiefs head to Canberra to push for coronavirus rescue package

Tourism bosses have headed to Canberra today to lobby the federal government for more funding to help turnaround a calamitous drop in visitors following the coronavirus outbreak.

Travel bans and ongoing health fears have seen airline bookings to Australia fall off a cliff, with bookings from the UK dropping by around 50 per cent in the past month, compared to the same time last year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce a multibillion-dollar package to boost the economy which is heavily reliant on the tourism sector.

Speaking to the Senate economic committee yesterday, Treasury chief Steven Kennedy said the coronavirus could cut “at least” 0.5 percentage points from the nation’s economic growth in the March quarter. This comes on top of the 0.2 per cent slowdown on growth from this summer’s bushfires.

The government this week added South Korean to its travel ban list that includes China and Iran. It also introduced restrictions for travellers from Italy that included enhanced screenings.

The tourism sector is calling on Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham to double the fund announced in the wake of the bushfire crisis to address the “unprecedented” hit to the industry.

“As the prime minister has made clear, more help is on the way as we carefully plan further responses to this crisis that are carefully targeted to help those most affected, seeking to save businesses and jobs,” Birmingham said.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the government needed to match the $76 million funding allocated following the bsuhfires.

“The coronavirus is having a devastating impact on our businesses, our staff and our communities,” Gschwind told the Guardian Australia.