The hospitality and tourism industries are renewing calls for targeted support from the federal government mere days before the JobKeeper wage subsidy expires on Sunday.
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) and Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) on Tuesday called for targeted and temporary assistance for the hospitality, tourism and accommodation sectors.
Specifically, they requested the National Cabinet consider offering cash boost payments to businesses affected by public health orders and report a 30% decline in gross revenue over the last four quarters compared to the prior year.
The payment would be equivalent to the PAYG 2 tax withheld from wages for all employees. Or, alternatively, businesses would receive $500 per full-time employee weekly.
The AHA and TAA are also urging the Commonwealth to work with state and territory governments to consider further relief packages including vouchers and tax relief.
AHA chief executive Stephen Ferguson said the end of JobKeeper will create “unnecessary hardship” for businesses still affected by government restrictions.
“We understand the government restrictions are in place to keep Australians safe and we are proud of the role we have played,” Ferguson said.
“But the fact remains that while keeping us all safe, these limitations come at tremendous cost to business owners and workers — costs which will continue after the temporary assistance measures like JobKeeper end.”
A recent report by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) into the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on small businesses found that the tourism, accommodation, and hospitality industries were disproportionately affected by bans on non-essential travel, work from home trends and border closures when compared to other industries.
The report notes that state border closures cost the tourism industry, which usually contributes 2.5% to Australia’s GDP, nearly $7 billion in lost business between Christmas and the end of January.
Activities in the hospitality industry were often first to be restricted by public health orders, with Restaurant and Catering Association chief executive Wes Lambert saying in the report that almost all COVID-19 restrictions were directed at accommodation and food services.
“In Brisbane, with nine hours’ notice, our industry had to throw away $8 million worth of produce,” Lambert said.
While the government has remained steadfast in its decision to end JobKeeper on March 28, the withdrawal of the wage subsidy has highlighted that there are industries and regions still recovering from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.
Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson said accommodation hotels in the major CBDs were “desperate for help until the vaccine rollout was complete”.
“Hotels in the major CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne have occupancy rates below 35% and are really struggling to retain skilled staff,” Johnson said.