Business owners fear ‘devastating’ end to JobKeeper
Border certainty will be more crucial than ever as JobKeeper comes to an end and struggling tourism operators in Queensland's premier destinations scramble to guarantee employment.
Tourism leaders in north Queensland and the Whitsundays have joined in calling for a replacement to the wage subsidy fearing embattled operators will be disproportionately affected when the scheme ends in March.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chairman Ken Chapman said JobKeeper had prevented an "economic catastrophe" in Cairns but that an abrupt end to the scheme would be "devastating" for the region, where reef operators rely on international tourism for up to 70 per cent of their business.
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler said a replacement subsidy - tailored to struggling regions - needed to replace JobKeeper if the tourism industry was to recover.
Ms Wheeler said Whitsundays operators, who were currently operating at as low as 85 per cent under capacity, would not be able to retain enough staff to accommodate international arrivals without a replacement subsidy.
"With the uncertainty around borders on top of many of our tourism products whose business were anywhere from 30-90 per cent international, it is imperative that we keep trained, skilled people employed and living local so that when international borders do open, we have experiences ready and waiting to welcome visitors," she said
Cairns Tourism Industry Association, which represents a fleet of marine tourism operators, has called for aviation incentives and border confidence to ensure operators can operate with "certainty" after JobKeeper ends in March.
President Kevin Byrne said the subsidy needed to be replaced with more "concrete" stimuli and travel incentives that would encourage domestic visitation and inject capital into struggling businesses in the absence on the international market.
"We can't expect JobKeeper to prop us up until international aviation resumes," he said.
"But we need the borders to remain open, we need some sort of incentive for aviation to make affordable seats available to areas like Cairns, Broome and the Whitsundays.
"People aren't travelling across to Bali, they aren't having their European holidays … but there's a bit of stage fright out there.
"Australians need to know that if they're going to make a booking and take their family somewhere that they will be able to do that."
Originally published as Business owners fear 'devastating' end to JobKeeper