Travel and other key industries hard-hit by COVID such as hospitality and childcare have been snubbed by the Australian government and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured), a former Managing Director of Tourism Australia, in its delayed annual budget, released last night.
They’ve been left behind to fend for themselves as the govt focuses on benefits for businesses that are doing well.
“The economic adjustment for travel agents and tour operators presumably means moving on. Retraining, repositioning, relocating, starting again. In a recession.” wrote commentator David Speers.
It’s a blow to industry organisations such as the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, which have been lobbying hard for industry targetted assistance.
But the government ignored AFTA’s lobbying and went with a broad-based approach led by tax cuts and write-offs, infrastructure spending and employment subsidies for younger workers.
The budget was based on what some commentators regard as puzzlingly optimistic assumptions – for example, the government believes unemployment will peak at 8% in the December quarter before (very) slowly declining.
Yet millions of Australians are on the JobKeeper subsidy which ceases at the end of March, also known as the “COVID Cliff”.
When JobKeeper ends there’s little prospect of work in key industries such as travel, which faces a bleak future based on the government’s forecasts.
The government expects that inbound and outbound international travel will “remain low through the latter part of 2021, after which a gradual recovery in international tourism is also assumed to occur”.
For travel agents, whose business model is based on Australians travelling overseas, this is terrible but not unexpected news.
For domestic tourism businesses, it is also a very significant issue because inbound visitors are a key and irreplaceable market for operators across the country.
AFTA Chairman Tom Manwaring told the ABC in August that up to 50% of of its 3000 members could go under by Christmas if they don’t receive targetted government assistance in addition to JobKeeper.
Christmas is now just 11 weeks away and there are no presents in sight.