Dear State Premiers and Chief Ministers,
We are appealing to you on behalf of the Australian tourism industry as well as the myriad industries that both rely on and support it across the nation’s metropolitan, regional and rural economies.
Throughout 2020, the tourism industry has sustained a series of devastating setbacks, first from the widespread bushfires of last summer and next, much more broadly, from the ongoing, broad ranging impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.
We acknowledge the seriousness of the health crisis we are experiencing. We understand the need for the current Victorian border closure. We also support the continued closure of Australia’s international borders, even though many of our businesses rely on international visitors for a significant portion of our revenue.
Until now, the tourism industry has, as a collective, remained optimistic in the belief that better times are ahead. The industry has worked diligently to keep up the positive stories and to communicate with our local and overseas guests, all with an underlying objective to keep our employees at work and our businesses sustainable.
Tourism Australia and the state tourism organisations have each done commendable jobs providing industry operators with up-to-date information and convincing Australians to holiday at home, to take road trips, to discover our own backyard. Our local media has been supportive, flipping content to provide more insights into the opportunities of travelling within Australia.
This should have been our moment, as Australian tourism operators, to welcome a whole new domestic market to experience our destinations and products, with direct benefit to the local economies and communities they support.
Our airlines were beginning to restore their networks, consumers were feeling confident and operators were seeing positive signs of pent-up demand and confirmed forward bookings. Many guests were happy to postpone rather than cancel their bookings in order to support the industry and essentially to have something to look forward to. With many businesses having remained closed for six months, spring was the time we were planning to see operations, employees and guests return, not to normal, but with modified operations, capacities and operations to allow safe travel.
The events of recent weeks, in particular the ongoing changes to policies around borders and access to interstate travellers, have resulted in crippling uncertainty among tourism operators and would-be travellers alike. Guests who had previously been prepared to postpone travel have now cancelled in light of the latest announcements on long term border closures. Fundamentally, we have seen these decisions erode confidence in the domestic tourism product and foresee serious, long-term damage to Australian tourism as a result.
This is an industry that directly employs over 5% of the nation’s workforce or around 660,000 Australians, with millions more indirectly employed in or reliant on the tourism industry. This effective shutdown of the industry affects tourism businesses such as hotels, airlines, tour operators, travel agencies and attractions, as well as a wide range of other businesses which supply tourism operators or who benefit from visitors’ spending, particularly in regional Australia. This includes many small independent businesses such as bakeries, wineries, farmers, local food stores, fuel stations, support services and art galleries. The regional spread of people and businesses impacted reaches deep into every electorate across the country.
When the current JobKeeper program ends in March 2021, it is probable that many existing tourism businesses will no longer be around to provide employment opportunities or tourism experiences for Australians. When international borders reopen, it is likely that the tourism industry will be so diminished that we will not be able to accommodate the number of international visitors that Australia needs to bolster our economy.
We need interstate borders to remain open. We need certainty that domestic travel is accessible so that Australians can recommence making travel plans and so we can get employees and businesses back to work. We implore you now to desist from making announcements that erode this confidence; we implore you to stop spending public money on border closures. We implore you to work quickly and collaboratively with neighbouring states to install screening protocols for travellers and to implement logical solutions which will allow interstate travel to recommence in a safe and sustainable manner.
The Australian tourism industry needs you to act now!
This message is endorsed by the following Australian tourism organisations: