An industry-led grassroots petition to begin the rebuild of domestic tourism has been launched, imploring State Premiers and Chief Ministers to identify a way forward for the sector.
The campaign, led by the hashtag #SaveAussieTourism, has been started by Baillie Lodges Chief Operating Officer, Craig Bradbery, and endorsed by heavyweights of the industry including Flight Centre CEO, Graham Turner; Helloworld CEO and executive Andrew and Cinzia Burnes; Intrepid Travel CEO, James Thornton; Spicers Retreats Founder, Jude Turner and many more. The campaign has already attracted hundreds of signatories, representing hoteliers, travel retailers, tour operators, airlines and airports, tourism associations, car rental, attractions and others.
In an open letter to state and territory leaders, the industry begins by acknowledging the seriousness of the health crisis but reflecting on the repeated setbacks beginning with the 2020 bushfires and continuing on through the pandemic to date. The letter urges leaders to reopen borders to allow Australians to plan domestic travel, inject cashflow into businesses and get employees back to work.
The industry coalition urges states and territories to work together to install screening protocols and to implement procedures to allow interstate travel to resume safely. The group urged states and territories not to announce long-term border closures, which erode confidence and force many travellers who have postponed their trips into ultimately cancelling.
The letter says it is acting on behalf of 660,000 Australians who make their living in tourism and from an effort to ensure that businesses remain around long enough until the end of JobKeeper and eventually for when international borders reopen.
Speaking about the campaign, Bradbery said the many new domestic markets had been effectively dashed with hard-line stances and changes to interstate borders.
“There’s been so much support and pent-up demand to date from domestic travellers, but now as we’ve been forced to ask our guests to once again postpone their trips and re-arrange flights, people are fed up and losing confidence in the whole idea of planning and booking a holiday,” Bradbery said.
“For the tourism industry, this should have been our moment – a chance for Aussie travellers to discover the many wonders of our own remarkable country. But as state borders like Queensland and the Northern Territory now look to remain closed, tourism businesses can’t survive for an extended period solely on the support from intrastate travellers,” he added.
Commenting on his support for the campaign, Accor Pacific COO, Simon McGrath, said he was proud to get behind the industry’s push to open up new communication channels with government.
“COVID-19 has shown us the importance of tourism to our nation’s economic agenda and recovery, particularly as a major employer. There is no doubt that once restrictions are removed, tourism will create employment opportunities and revitalise the economy.”
InterContinental Hotels Group Managing Director Australasia & Japan, Leanne Harwood, told HM it went without saying that the pandemic had decimated the industry.
“We can get through this, but there’s no question that we need interstate travel to recommence in a safe and sustainable manner to make that happen,” Harwood said.
“We have done very thing we can to support our community in many ways over the past six months, and everyone can come back to hotels knowing that safety, cleanliness and wellbeing is the top priority. The industry is prepared to welcome everyone back and has been working together to put the right measures in place and reassure guests that it is safer than ever to travel – in fact, at IHG, we guarantee it with our IHG Clean Promise.”
Best Western Australasia Managing Director, Graham Perry, said governments needed to act accordingly to save the industry.
“In the same way that tourists don’t recognise state boundaries, neither do droughts, viruses or bushfires. Governments should respond to these national states of emergency and act accordingly.”
More information on the campaign can be found at www.saveaustraliantourism.com.