G21 warns “perfect storm” could wash away Geelong’s tourism industry
LEADING lobby group G21 says tourism in the Geelong region is facing a “perfect storm” of negative impacts, and is urging the Morrison Government to provide immediate and continuing support to the sector during the coronavirus pandemic.
Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson has criticised G21’s argument, and labelled it “extremely disappointing”.
In a statement issued last week, G21 said the Geelong visitor and tourism sector was “on its knees, needing ongoing support to survive and then to rebuild post-COVID-19”.
The statement cites a Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism prediction that the Geelong region will see somewhere between 4,700 (best case) and 6,330 (worst case) people lose their jobs in 2020-21.
It acknowledges the Morrison Government’s JobKeeper payments of $1,500 had been “the key factor in allowing many visitor-based businesses to survive through the first half of the year”.
“However, at the time of writing (July 9), the federal government had yet to announce the future of JobKeeper payments, which are legislated to end in September.
“While many employees from the hospitality and music sectors have qualified for JobSeeker or JobKeeper, many others are not eligible due to the nature of their casual employment.
“Nor has the federal government announced what, if any, additional support will be provided to support Victoria’s regional visitor and hospitality-based businesses and workers while Melbourne is in lockdown.
“The cessation of JobKeeper, the resumption of loans and mortgages which were temporarily placed on hold and ongoing lockdowns are looming as a visitor economy ‘perfect storm’.”
G21 says the tourism sector and its employees “need continuing support to survive now, in order to give them a fighting chance of recovery in the medium term”.
“G21 urges the federal government to re-evaluate the timing and criteria of JobKeeper to ensure the survival of the tourism industry and to consider further specifically-targeted support for Victoria’s hard-hit regional visitor economy.”
Senator Henderson said G21’s reference to the cessation of JobKeeper was “misleading” and “completely ignores public statements by both Prime Minister (Scott) Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg”.
“The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have made it clear that income support for sectors most in need will continue beyond September.
“The Morrison Government’s economic support, including cash payments to businesses of up to $100,000 and the JobKeeper payment, has given tourism businesses a lifeline to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis.”
Meanwhile, the state government has increased the Regional Tourism Support Program it announced on July 2 from $5 million to $40 million.
The program is open to regional tourism businesses to cover the costs of refunds, as well as marketing campaigns to boost visitation once coronavirus restrictions can be eased.