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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Government can do ‘more’: Aitchison

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison has taken a shot at the NSW Government, claiming its rebranded Dine & Discover vouchers “still don’t go far enough”.

The initiative was recently launched to encourage people to get “out and about” after the coronavirus pandemic – supporting dining, arts and tourism businesses – while stimulating spending in the economy.

In early December, the scheme will invite customers to use their coupons with participating COVID-19 safe enterprises in The Rocks, Sydney.

The program is then expected to be rolled out across the state, including the Hunter, from late January.

The total package is worth $100 per adult: with two $25 vouchers being utilised for eating in at restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and clubs from Monday to Thursday (excluding public holidays); and the other two $25 vouchers to be used for entertainment and recreation, including cultural institutions, music and arts venues, available seven days a week (excluding public holidays).

They cannot be spent on retail, tobacco, alcohol, gambling and accommodation.

But, Ms Aitchison, and NSW Labor, believe the concept, which was expanded to include tour operators and travel agencies, still ignores a vital sector of the industry.

“What about accommodation providers?” the Shadow Minister for Investment and Tourism said.

“They’re hurting and desperately need support.

“I’m calling on the government to add them to the list of eligible businesses; and expand the program beyond The Rocks.”

Ms Aitchison also warned the $25 limit per voucher must be bolstered to make a meaningful difference to the NSW economy.

“The Northern Territory is offering up to $400 for its citizens,” she said.

“Tourism operators are hurting from the drought, catastrophic bushfires, floods and the pandemic.

“On top of that, the loss of international visitors has left a gaping hole in their revenue.

“The pilot program should be extended to regional NSW, too.

“I am glad to see Broken Hill is included in the second phase of the trial but what about the rest of the state?

“Once again, this government is proving how Sydney-centric it really is.”

Ms Aitchison added she was concerned the scheme still wasn’t clear as to exactly who will be eligible to receive the vouchers, suggesting it was policy on-the-fly rather than a genuine attempt to help the tourism industry.

“Last week the Treasurer (Dominic Perrottet) said all adults would be eligible for it,” she explained.

“However, this week, we’re being told that only residents who live in the 2000 postcode in the Sydney CBD will be eligible for the pilot, with Broken Hill not on board until December.

“There are a lot of people living between the CBD and Broken Hill.

“What incentives is the government giving everyone else in the state to support struggling tourism?

“More than eight months after COVID-19 started to impact tourism businesses, the government is still making it up as they go along.”

To participate in Dine & Discover NSW, you must have a MyServiceNSW account.

You can also download the Service NSW app now.