L-R Dean Long, Accommodation Association and Michael Johnson, TAA

Accommodation and hospitality associations say Sydney and Melbourne have been hung out to dry by the Federal Government’s AUD$1.2 billion stimulus program, with fears now heightened at what may now happen to workforces.

With mid-week corporate travel, business events and conferences still largely stymied partly due to nerves over domestic borders and the ongoing closure of international boundaries, the associations say the NSW and Victorian capitals will suffer with jobs to be lost and a major slowing in their recovery once borders are eventually opened.

Tourism Accommodation Australia National CEO, Michael Johnson, said while he welcomed the package from the government as a whole, with many regional members to benefit, a fairer deal was needed for city hotels which have been largely ignored by the support package.

Associations now fear for many hotel workforces with JobKeeper ending on March 28.

“Accommodation occupancy rates in both Sydney and Melbourne are below the 35% mark – that means only 35% of our workforce is employed with JobKeeper set to end,” Johnson said.

“While some regional tourism areas are actually flourishing, occupancy rates in Sydney and Melbourne CBDs are languishing. That figure will not improve for some time yet given the lack of corporate travel, conference and events and international tourism.

“We need large numbers of visitors to come to both Sydney and Melbourne to make up the huge short-fall – otherwise we will lose even more of our skilled staff.”

Accommodation Association CEO, Dean Long, said both Sydney and Melbourne have forward booking rates of 10% for the next 90 days, with both effectively left for dead by the government’s support package.

Conferences and mid-week business events are not currently sustaining city hotel availability.

“Our workforce is highly skilled and the Government has not provided the support for our skilled chefs, waiters, revenue managers and duty managers in the same way as they have for airlines,” he said.

“This means it will have a dramatic negative impact once international borders open and we don’t have the team members to provide the high service levels they demand.”

While Sydney and Melbourne were excluded from the government’s support package, Perth has chimed in with calls to be included in the subsidised destinations list as the gateway to regional WA.

AHA WA CEO, Bradley Woods

Australian Hotels Association (WA) CEO, Bradley Woods, said it was pleasing to see Broome included but that the inclusion of Perth would meet the objectives of the support package and deliver a strong return on investment.

“With the WA Government providing subsidised regional airfares, the inclusion of Perth would benefit the suffering Perth accommodation industry, but also act as gateway to tourism areas throughout the state,” Woods said.

“Interstate visitors will book a trip to WA if they have faith that the borders will not slam shut with little notice in the event there is a confirmed case of community transmission.”

Long added the Accommodation Association would be urgently seeking support measures in its Pre-Budget submission including provisions to see hotel workers treated the same as those at airlines and a clear national plan to open international borders with the support of state and territory leaders, coupled with a consistent virus management strategy to ensure there are no more snap border closures at the first signs of any new viral loads.