Small hospitality and accommodation businesses across Tasmania will be hoping their bookings start to pick up in coming weeks as the state government launches its new travel vouchers program.
Announced earlier in August, the ‘Make Yourself At Home’ vouchers will give individuals up to $150 to spend on local accommodation or experiences, with families able to access up to $550 in vouchers.
The $7.5 million program is designed to encourage Tasmanians to spend within the state, giving much-needed cashflow to local tourism and accommodation businesses.
Tasmania is currently under stage three coronavirus restrictions, with residents able to travel and stay anywhere in the state, as long as social distancing and rules about gatherings are followed.
Robert Mallett, chief executive of the Tasmanian Small Business Council, says the travel vouchers will boost midweek bookings for many tourism businesses, and in turn, have positive flow-on effects for the wider Tasmanian community.
“The ‘Make Yourself at Home’ initiative is a flash of brilliance, which simultaneously supports our struggling midweek tourism sector and provides busy Tasmanians the opportunity to take a break and recharge their batteries before what we hope is a busy summer season,” he tells SmartCompany.
“Tasmanians have demonstrated their commitment to their island and their fellow small businesses by booking out regional food and accommodation venues on weekends, with availability restricted well into November in some instances.
“The opportunity to now support their midweek trade will advantage both the economy and mental health of all Tasmanians through the flow-on activity across the island.”
How the travel vouchers will work
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said on Thursday the voucher system will open on Monday, September 7, at 9am, and will run until December 1, 2020.
Individuals, couples and families will be able to register online for accommodation or tourism experience vouchers, which will come in the form of reimbursements.
Individuals can register for one $100 accommodation voucher and one $50 experience voucher, while couples can register for two $100 accommodation vouchers to use on different nights and two $50 experience vouchers.
Families can register as a single parent or as two parents, and receive up to two $150 accommodation vouchers to use on different nights. Each parent can also receive a $50 experience voucher, as can up to three children.
To access the vouchers, individuals and families must pay for and undertake their travel, and then use receipts from eligible accommodation and experience providers to claim back the value of the vouchers.
The accommodation vouchers can be used to cover the cost of short-term stays on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, while the experience vouchers can be used for experiences and tours on any day of the week.
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“We know 2020 has been a year like no other and we will continue to provide as much support as we can to support our local economy and our local jobs,” said Gutwein in a statement.
According to the ABC, individuals and families will be able to apply for more vouchers once they’ve used their first lot.
However, the Premier says he is expecting large numbers of people to flock to the registration website when the program opens, as it is a “first-in, best-dressed scenario”.
“I would hope that the website doesn’t crash, but I expect that there will be significant interest in this, and to be frank, I am readying myself for that eventuality, because I think that Tasmanians will apply in droves,” he said.
Gutwein said the government is expecting the value of the program to the Tasmanian economy to be “somewhere between two to three times the investment that we are making”, although it will depend on how widely the vouchers are taken up.
“People are going to spend money on accommodation, they’re going to spend money on petrol, on food, they’re going to have a voucher they can do and have a tourism experience as well, and again, they’ll spend money whilst doing that,” he said.