'We won't have much of a tourism industry left': Tourism boss calls for JobKeeper extension as borders stay shut

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  • The head of Australia’s peak tourism industry body has called for an extension to the JobKeeper subsidy to counteract the continuing financial strain caused by international and domestic border closures.
  • Tourism and Transport Forum Chief Executive Margy Osmond said Australia “won’t have much of a tourism industry left” without renewed support.
  • The federal government is yet to signal any further JobKeeper extensions, saying it was always intended to be a temporary countermeasure to coronavirus shutdowns.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The head of Australia’s peak tourism industry body has again called for a JobKeeper extension or renewed taxpayer support to counteract the crushing blow of border closures, saying the nation “won’t have much of a tourism industry left” otherwise.

Appearing on “The Today Show” Tuesday morning, Tourism and Transport Forum Chief Executive Margy Osmond said the industry requires “a higher level of support” to persevere through border shutdowns designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Predictions that Australia’s international border will remain closed until 2022 are a “disappointing start to the year,” Osmond said, adding that the industry supports decisions made on public health grounds.

Domestic border closures are also limiting how Aussies can holiday at home, Osmond said.

“We can probably get by if we do have unfettered domestic travel,” she remarked. “But that’s not what’s happened at the moment.”

Osmond said an extension of the JobKeeper subsidy, or a new version of it, is “the very least” the federal government could do to help local tourism operators from sinking.

Without a “systematic” approach to the crisis, “this time next year we won’t have much of a tourism industry left,” Osmond said.

The JobKeeper subsidy, a cornerstone of the federal government’s economic lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, is slated to end on March 28.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has thus far ruled out another extension to the JobKeeper payment, saying it was always intended as a limited measure.

Instead of entertaining the idea of a further JobKeeper boost, Frydenberg recently pointed to a $128 million federal government scheme providing one-off payments to some hard-hit travel agents and tour organisers, which joins a $350 million federal budget carve-out to bolster regional tourism.

He has also hailed Australia’s imminent vaccine rollout as positive news for businesses that were financially damaged by coronavirus lockdowns, suggesting the jabs will get the sector back on track.

But Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy yesterday suggested that Australia’s vaccination program may not result in border restrictions being lifted this year, thanks to questions about how effectively the vaccine will stop the virus’ spread.

Despite the uncertainty around the sector, Osmond said she is “certainly hopeful” the federal government will entertain further discussions about subsidies before the next budget is handed down.

“That will give us a chance to put in place something that will support the industry and all of those jobs and people,” she said.

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