Australia’s peak accommodation bodies are urging the government to provide emergency assistance to the struggling sector ahead of the JobKeeper cut off.
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlining the dire situation facing the hospitality, tourism and accommodation sectors and asked for assistance to be urgently considered by National Cabinet.
“There’s no doubt the end of JobKeeper will create unnecessary hardship for those businesses upon which governments have imposed temporary, targeted restrictions to limit the gathering and movement of people to help save Australian lives,” chief executive Stephen Ferguson (pictured) said.
Ferguson said the AHA understands government restrictions are in place to keep Australians safe and said “we are proud of the role we have played”.
“But the fact remains that while keeping us all safe, these limitations come at tremendous cost to business owners and workers—costs which will continue after the temporary assistance measures like JobKeeper end,” he said.
“Given the vaccine rollout is predicted to be completed in about six months, what we are asking for are targeted, temporary measures of support … It is vital in the intervening period our businesses survive and be able to retain their skilled employees so we are there on the other side of the pandemic—now is not the time to pull the drawbridge up on those still on the road to recovery.”
Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) CEO Michael Johnson said accommodation hotels in the major CBDs were desperate for help until the vaccine rollout was complete.
“Hotels in the major CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne have occupancy rates below 35 per cent and are really struggling to retain skilled staff,” Johnson said.
The AHA is asking that businesses whose activities are directly limited by public health orders, and whose gross revenue has been less than 70 per cent over the last four consecutive quarters compared to the prior year, receive a cash boost payment equivalent to the PAYG tax withheld from wages for all employees.
Or, alternatively, receive $500 per (full-time equivalent) employee per week.
The news follows the unveiling of the federal government’s $1.2 billion tourism and aviation package, which would see major airlines, like Qantas and Virgin, continue to be paid $500 direct support payments for international employees after March.
This is the equivalent of JobKeeper wage subsidies.
The AHA is also calling for the Commonwealth to work with state and territory governments to individually consider further relief packages including tourism, hospitality and accommodation vouchers, but also direct relief aimed at issues including land tax, or payroll tax.
“Using NSW as an example, it doesn’t make sense a business which has 50 per cent capacity due to a Government order still pays 100 per cent land tax and council rates,” the AHA said.
“In Victoria, businesses are still restricted to having no more than 75 per cent of their employees back in the workplace.”
Ferguson said a recent ABS report, drawing on the Tax Office’s single-touch payroll system over the week to 27 February, showed there were still 110,000, or 12 per cent, fewer pay-rolled employees in hotels, restaurants and cafes than before the pandemic hit early last year.
Only two in three hospitality jobs had been regained by the end of last month, the ABS reported.