The State Government has turned its back on the tourism industry at a time of crisis, with no blueprint on how it can help the sector during the COVID-19 crisis, according to The Nationals WA MP Vince Catania.
With tourism businesses across the State closed because of coronavirus restrictions, Mr Catania says there is no tangible relief package for operators who face up to 18 months without income and a doubtful future.
“The WA industry, which is built on regional destinations and venues, has been crippled and urgently needs the State Government to provide real and meaningful survival packages,” said Mr Catania, the Member for North West Central.
“If the aid isn’t forthcoming these tourism businesses will collapse, resulting in mammoth job losses and bankruptcies that will see a flood of social security applicants.
“The Tourism Minister’s silence on this situation has been deafening, so clearly he isn’t close enough to the industry in regional areas to understand just how catastrophic the situation is for proprietors, particularly those north of Geraldton.
“It is well overdue for the Minister to give some guidance at this dire time for tourism because many operators have been overlooked when it comes to Government relief and they can’t go on much longer.”
Mr Catania said the State Government needed to answer the WA Tourism Council’s recent call for a clearer picture of how long the ban on intra-regional travel will remain in place.
“At least some idea of the end date for the restrictions will provide industry with the opportunity to plan an exit strategy and assist businesses to determine if they’ll be able to hang on long enough to re-open,” he said.
“It’s crucial the State Government understand most of these small regional tourism businesses in the north, make their money from April to September each year and there will be a catastrophic domino effect on the economy if doors close, jobs are lost, bills, rents and mortgages are not paid and leases are terminated.
“Offering free COVID-19 health and hygiene training to hospitality workers is a good initiative but without support these business won’t be around to worry about appropriate cleaning measures.”
The State Government’s hollow attempt to help small businesses has amounted to relief for a few larger businesses through payroll tax and licence fees concessions but the $607 million stimulus package seems to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
“The many businesses that sit under the payroll tax threshold have slipped through the net and they need more than a future freeze on existing fees and charges, which have been increasing over the past three years to already unmanageable levels for many,” Mr Catania said.
“A freeze is of no use to cash strapped businesses where trade and income has declined rapidly with little hope of a recovery inside 18 months.
“I call on the Governments to be fast and take courageous steps and implement urgent and aggressive strategies to preserve industry, businesses, jobs and morale.”