Message from our Chief Executive, Daniel Gschwind
The Federal Government’s tourism support package, announced overnight, provides significant support for airlines, specifically to allow them to keep 8,600 employees in place for the international network capacity. There is also substantial relief for security and other airport charges, which is well accepted.
The high profile subsidy for 800,000 domestic airfares will also boost aviation demand and hopefully lead to notable increases in capacity in the domestic network. No doubt consumers will enthusiastically welcome the opportunity of cheap flights. Queensland has done comparatively well with 13 of the 33 subsidies routes leading to four of the state’s destinations (Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Whitsundays and Cairns). The other regions will be less impressed. Notably, Brisbane, a major tourism destination affected by COVID, is also not on the list, other than access to Uluru, Alice Springs and Launceston.
We welcome the support for aviation’s critical transport infrastructure for all our destinations which will be vital for the eventual international recovery. However, it is disappointing that there is no direct and immediate support for struggling tourism businesses around the country, still crippled by international border closures and disrupted domestic travel patterns. The government’s expectations that the increase in subsidy-stimulated domestic travel to select destinations will ‘trickle down’ to those businesses most in need may be too optimistic. Even the additional loan facility, announced as part of the support package, will do little to provide certainty for struggling businesses, although the possibility to use the program to restructure existing loans or lines of credit is likely to be beneficial.
There are also questions over how the spending propensity of the additional travellers will support the tours and attractions businesses that are in most desperate need of support to hang onto their staff. That was QTIC’s main concern expressed consistently to the Federal Government, as the highly-effective JobKeeper program ceases. Travel agents are also concerned that many consumers have large outstanding flight credits with airlines and may not be primarily interested in discounted tickets. Travel agents also point out that their businesses are left out of the equation altogether with those seeking discounted tickets asked to go directly to airline sites. The impact of subsidised air travel has also raised concerns from some rail and coach operators.
Without the ongoing wage support for tourism and hospitality businesses, there is a potential for significant job losses. These losses may prompt skill and staff migration out of tourism and hospitality which has the potential to affect the recovery when international borders reopen. We need a skilled and experienced workforce to deliver the quality experiences that we promise domestic and international travellers.
The announcement also confirmed that current support programs for business events, zoos and aquariums and travel agents will be extended for a number of moths which is very welcomed, although not all details have been released yet.
In summary, we gratefully acknowledge the support for the aviation sector and the consumer incentives but remain very concerned for struggling businesses and their staff. Direct financial support will effectively cease at the end of this months and not all tourism businesses are out of the COVID crisis and they are unlikely to see short-term boosts to their revenue from the announced package. QTIC will continue to speak up for continued partnerships with government to keep our industry strong and ‘match-fit’ for the recovery.