Scott Morrison says tourism will receive $1 billion from a $17.6 billion government package.
Set up as a stimulus package against the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19), the $1 billion fund will be led by Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham.
This will include subsidies and allowances, such as waiving marine park and national park fees for businesses operating in areas like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, as well as increased domestic tourism promotion.
Overnight, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19, which has killed 4,292 people globally, was now a pandemic.
Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the health authority made the decision off the back of its deep concerns at the alarming spread of COVID-19, its severity and governments’ inaction, despite WHO’s calls for “aggressive” and “urgent” action in the fight against the virus.
A coronavirus regional and community fund will also be established under the government package to assist communities and businesses in regional areas.
“There are businesses across this country that will be more impacted than most and there will be regions and communities across this country that will be more impacted than others, those in particular in more remote areas, those who are particularly exposed when it comes to the external sectors of the economy – the tourism sector, travel sector, parts of export sector, in crayfishing, in places where that is a predominant activity and that is a significant exposure,” Morrison said, speaking at a press conference.
The overall stimulus package will inject $17.6 billion into the Australian economy, with $11 billion spent before 30 June this year.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Australian Taxation Office will also provide relief for businesses significantly affected by the COVID-19 crisis with deferral of various tax obligations by up to four months, “as occurred with the bushfires”.
Following bushfires that devastated the east coast of Australia, in January, Tourism Australia launched its ‘Holiday Here This Year’ campaign, which was supported through a $20 million government funding boost.
Within months, however, a second crisis hit on a scale expected to far outweight the impacts of the bushfires, significantly effecting travel across the globe.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects the impacts of COVID-19 to reduce airlines’ revenues by as much as US$113 billion (around $171 billion), a scale not seen since the Global Financial Crisis, the trade group said.
As it stands, travel bans apply on foreign nationals from China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.
“Too much was at stake”: ATIC welcomes government support package
The Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), which represents thousands of tourism enterprises across the country, welcomed the stimulus package.
“Too much was at stake without this significant and well-targeted support package for Australian tourism and our operators,” ATIC executive director Simon Westaway said in a statement.
“As resilient as Australian tourism firms are, the recent and sustained cliff-face fall in international tourism arrivals and forward bookings, the major loss of confidence in travel including for many Australians and rightful slashing of air and land transport capacity to our visitor hotspots based on poor demand, is an unprecedented situation.
“It is well accepted that tourism is a 21st century economic pillar and one of Australia’s largest job creators, particularly in our regions,” he said.
“It is small tourism enterprises that overwhelmingly deliver our compelling product and experiences including to over 9 million annual international visitors and which support tens of millions of domestic visitor nights.”
Featured image: AT Kings driving to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park at sunset (iStock.com/bennymarty)