Six months extension of Australia’s JobKeeper scheme comes as lifeline for tourism industry

daintree rainforest australia

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has welcomed the news that payments under the government’s JobKeeper scheme will be extended for millions of stood-down workers, a report by CMW says. The government has extended the scheme beyond September for an additional six months at a new rate of A$1,200 (US$846.87) a fortnight. The wage subsidy had been A$1,500 a fortnight.

AFTA CEO Darren Rudd said the decision was a victory for the travel and tourism industry which had lobbied the government for the six-month extension.

“Covid-19 hit travel and tourism operators will continue to feel the impact, so ongoing support is vital. Government is listening to us and this is a new win which has been achieved through collaborative and constructive interaction at all levels of government and across the political spectrum,” Rudd said.

“Keeping the scheme going – albeit at a slightly lower rate and with tighter eligibility tests – provides a lifeline to viable businesses and our members. These are businesses that might otherwise have closed their doors for good, leaving people without jobs and consumers without support at a time when they need it more than ever,” he added.

“We know how tough it is for our member agents and the broader community. For economic survival we now need to turn to reopening of all domestic borders when safe to do so as well as establishing travel bubbles to get Australians travelling again while balancing the health risks,” Rudd added.

“The extension of Jobkeeper has been highly anticipated by businesses across the economy and none will be more grateful than Australia’s tourism industry to see its continuation,” added managing director of the Australian Tourism Export Council, Peter Shelley.

“This extension will give tourism operators the security of knowing they can plan about retention of staff and management of resources moving forward as they attempt to navigate a difficult period between now and when the international borders re-open,” he said.

“Tourism businesses have been hit hard this year not just by Covid, but by bushfires, drought, floods – but they want to get back to business and are waiting eagerly to welcome back their international visitors. Having skilled staff ready and waiting to go will be a critical factor in the speed of their rebuild,” he said.

While the new extension date of March 2021 will be helpful for some tourism businesses, there will be many internationally focused businesses which will require further support and sadly, some who will not survive the distance, CMW says in the report.

“There are many, many businesses which have invested heavily in building tourism products which appeal to international visitors like reef and rainforest experiences, unique bridge climbs, natural attractions, indigenous tours, food and wine experiences and eco resorts – and these experiences have helped to deliver huge export income for our economy,” Shelley said.

“These businesses need to be preserved, along with our valuable inbound tourism operator distribution businesses, in order to ensure we can reignite export tourism once borders open,” he added.