The troubled tourism industry is pushing for ongoing support from the federal government, despite Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s announcement that JobKeeper will not be extended beyond March.
Board member at Sydney’s Bridge Climb and director of Scenic World in the Blue Mountains, Anthea Hammon, says she wants to see a continuation of JobKeeper for the tourism industry and the establishment of progressive business loans. She says these measures will help amusement businesses that have seen revenues decimated due to the international travel ban.
“We’re the end chain of the tourism supply chain. So they’ve helped travel agents, they’ve helped aviation, they’ve helped zoos and aquariums, but attractions and experiences have been left with very little support,” Hammon says.
Hammon says both Bridge Climb and Scenic World are still experiencing a 75% loss of revenue compared to pre-pandemic years.
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“Without a recovery in international tourism the domestic market is just not big enough to make up the slack,” Hammon says.
Hammon wants to see a wage subsidy scheme similar to JobKeeper that is solely for tourism businesses still affected by the ban on international travel.
“But I think the conditions under which you get JobKeeper should evolve,” she says.
Hammon says Scenic World, which operates scenic railway, walkway, cableway and skyway tours, was not able to claim JobKeeper for recently hired staff members.
Hammon hired 60 new staff during the peak end-of-year period, but none of them were eligible for JobKeeper. Paying all those wages meant that Scenic World could not make up for the significant losses experienced in early-2020, in what should have been a sell-out period, she says.
Hammon, like other business advocates, wants to see progressive loans from the federal government including an interest-free loan package for tourism.
“We can’t get any grant money because it’s all aimed at local government and non-for-profits, so we haven’t done any investment in our business because there’s been no cash to do it with,” she says.
“Being able to invest an interest-free loan program for up to five years, so that we can do the capital works that we were planning, will help us be ready for when international tourists come back,” she says.
Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell is also calling on the federal government to establish progressive business loans, including a revenue-contingent loan scheme for businesses struggling with cashflow.
Carnell says with government support measures being withdrawn and the impact of recent lockdowns and border closures, access to finance is vital for many small businesses.
“Access to credit will be critical to keeping those otherwise viable small businesses afloat, particularly over the coming months as support measures are phased out,” Carnell said in a statement.
Revenue-contingent loans would work similarly to HECS-HELP loans in that they would be government-funded and capped at a percentage of the business’ annual revenue.
The push for further support comes after the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced on Monday that the end of JobKeeper will not be extended.
“It was always meant to be a temporary program, it was always designed to help get businesses to the other side,” he said in a statement.