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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Hunter tourism left off the recovery roadmap

Not everyone’s on board with the federal government’s new tourism and aviation support package.

The Hunter Business Chamber (HBC) has slammed the $1.2 billion handout, stating it would generate little benefit or relief for the many Hunter visitor economy businesses and employees still relying on JobKeeper.

The mainstay of the initiative, 800,000 half-price airfares to selected regions, does not include the Hunter.

In fact, the only NSW destination named in the initial rollout is Merimbula.

“We recognise the benefits that boosting tourism can bring but clearly this package will leave a long list of ‘have nots’ as a consequence of many NSW destinations, including the Hunter, being left off the list,” HBC CEO Bob Hawes said.

“There are businesses in the Hunter across tourism, events and entertainment that continue to struggle.

“While the expansion of the SME Loan Guarantee Scheme may provide some support to recovering businesses, asking cash-strapped visitor economy businesses to go further into debt with no certainty of future revenue is a huge ask for many owners and operators who have suffered considerably over the past 12 months.

“The recent Business NSW Business Conditions Survey indicated that without the direct financial support that JobKeeper has provided, there will be the immediate reduction in staffing levels and reduced hours for thousands of workers.

“Tough times will bring in tough measures.”

Mr Hawes said while he hoped Newcastle Airport would receive some benefit in facilitating flights to some of the selected regions, it was disappointing that the Hunter’s tourism-related businesses would not directly benefit from inbound activity.

“We urge the government to go beyond the provision of 800,000 discounted flights to select destinations and consider a Tourism 2.0 package to support other locations and the supply chain of goods and services that sustains the wider visitor economy,” he added.

“The package announced this week leaves too many businesses on the edge of the ‘COVID cliff’.

“We understand that up to 30,000 jobs in the Hunter are still being supported by JobKeeper and many of those businesses will remain at risk of failure without focused and direct support.”

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