Industry calls for government support

Townsville Enterprise is backing calls from State and National tourism and hospitality industry leaders urging all levels of Government to give certainty to businesses by way of financial support and access to Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs).

The current wave of COVID sweeping through Queensland is expected to extend into and past February, leaving businesses in a fight for survival, with long waits on RATs and businesses feeling financial impacts without the support packages which were previously provided throughout the pandemic.

In line with State and National tourism bodies, Townsville Enterprise is calling for business support by way of three initiatives:

  1. Financial business support through a Job Keeper-like scheme which would assist businesses as and when they are required to close, or when experiencing significant reductions in turnover.
  2. Improved availability and free access to RATs to enable business continuity and to help rebuild travel confidence.
  3. Development of long-term mechanisms to help the transition into a COVID endemic world, providing businesses a level of confidence and ensuring that they aren’t left wondering if the next variant or outbreak will see them shut their doors permanently.

Townsville Enterprise Director of Visitor Economy and Marketing, Lisa Woolfe says that after two years of business uncertainty and struggling to remain afloat, there is an urgent need for support, particularly as businesses move into what is being recognised by the industry as the most difficult period of the pandemic yet.

“Businesses are already feeling the pain of this current wave and are deeply concerned about how they’ll make it through the coming months as they face inevitable shutdowns and cutbacks due to staffing shortages and reduced customer patronage,” Ms Woolfe said.

“While we can’t wish COVID away, we have always said that there is a need for governments to provide much needed certainty around the policies and support mechanisms that are in place now, and into the future, so the industry can forward plan and continue to operate sustainably.”

“We are being told to prepare for a short, sharp impact from this COVID wave, and whilst we all accept that decisions are being made in the best interests of public health and safety, after two years of turbulence, for some businesses the next closure could be their last.” 

“In line with State and National tourism bodies, Townsville Enterprise is calling the Federal Government to put financial support for businesses back on the agenda, to improve the availability and free access to RATs to enable business continuity, and to consider the longer-term mechanisms that will rebuild travel and business confidence.”

General Manager of Peppers Blue on Blue, Richard McArthur urges Government to step in like they have before as hospitality businesses across the region brace for the most difficult days yet.

“For the last two years we have had to deal with lockdowns, lock outs, business restrictions and mandates. Despite that, we are currently in a worse situation than we’ve seen throughout this pandemic. We are operating with the lowest staff numbers ever and have been forced to close our restaurant at times,” said Mr McArthur.

“We understand the calls from Government for people to stay home unless necessary, but for a business like ours that costs us money and it costs us jobs.”

“What our business is facing is not unique to us, it is a national issue. For our industry to survive this wave, business support is going to be critical. Job Keeper pulled the industry through in 2020, and we need to see something like this for our industry again.”

Dale Brooker owner of Magnetic Adventure and Hire and MI Rentals says that this current wave of COVID has had a significant impact to business performance.

“As the COVID cases continue to rise we are seeing business fall through the floor. We are 80% down on car hires to where we would normally be at this time of year. It feels like we are in the peak of the lockdown in 2020 but with less support,” said Mr Brooker.

“Magnetic Island is made up of small family-run businesses like ours, these are the businesses that will struggle the most during this period. We are already seeing people abandon and cancel their holiday plans.”

“Business costs for things like masks, sanitiser and eventually RATs all adds up for small businesses like ours. We know they are essential, but its another cost and a hit to the already challenged bottom line.” 

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