Accor Pacific Chief Executive Officer, Simon McGrath AM

Accor Pacific Chief Executive Officer, Simon McGrath, has written to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan imploring the government to reinstate JobKeeper to keep the tourism industry alive.

HM can reveal McGrath has lobbied the three national leaders directly, urging the government not to turn its back on the sector and more than 650,000 people directly employed within it.

The Federal Government’s JobKeeper program, which benefited the entire country, was discontinued at the end of March 2021 and replaced some weeks later by similar financial support systems linked directly to workers in state government-declared ‘hotspot’ zones. This revised system sees funds paid directly to workers for lost hours, not to businesses, who are eventually receiving help via agonisingly slow relief structures put in place by the states.

Many jobs in the hotel industry were saved through JobKeeper during the national lockdown.

In his letter, McGrath said the Federal Government committed via JobKeeper to provide a lifeline for millions of businesses and to bounce back on the other side.

“Today tourism is in a worse state than it was back in April 2020, and we are calling on the Federal Government to honour their promise and provide continuity of care to get people through to the other side,” McGrath said.

“Jobkeeper must be reinstated for tourism and hospitality to help people and their families, and this must happen within the next two weeks.”

In his letter, McGrath said Australia needs to set a country-wide reopening date and that the bickering between state and federal governments on border openings needs to stop.

Many Sydney hotels not operating to house quarantine returnees have closed during the lockdown.

“It is pleasing to see vaccination rates improving rapidly across all of our communities,” McGrath continued.

“Once everyone has had the opportunity to get vaccinated, regardless of percentage levels, we should open up on the basis that people have been given the opportunity to be vaccinated.

“Now it is time to set a firm reopening date. Having the courage to commit to a date will give people confidence and unite our country behind a common goal.”

McGrath called for financial aid to be assessed and delivered not by hotspot definition but based on revenue shortfalls regardless of location.

“This shortfall was previously based on a revenue drop of 30% or more, and this benchmark must be restored to rescue the Tourism and Hospitality sector,” he said.

McGrath has called for a nationwide opening day to give the industry something to look forward to.

“Heavily impacted non-hotspot areas such as Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast, rely on feeder states such as Sydney and Melbourne for business and are receiving no financial support, which is devastating livelihoods.”

With Sydney currently in long-term lockdown, Melbourne in its sixth and other states prone to similar snap measures in response to localised viral outbreaks, hotel owners and managing brands across Australia, particularly in non-hotspot areas, are being forced to keep properties open and keep staff employed while operating with no revenue from key source markets in Sydney and Melbourne.

The tensity of other states is also deterring interstate travel on the basis that any number of cases could lead to state leaders slamming the door shut and forcing returning residents into two weeks quarantine.

McGrath said hotel owners and investors have built the tourism industry and that the fact owners of medium and large hotels are not available for financial assistance is “illogical”.

The Gold Coast is currently not in lockdown but unable to welcome guests from its major source markets.

“It costs owners and investors significantly to keep their teams engaged and properties operating,” McGrath said.

“They are a critical part of our tourism eco-system and create local jobs. Business owners are at breaking point and there will be closures, many don’t have the means to keep going beyond September.”

Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Illawarra/Shellharbour has now been locked down since 26 June, with case numbers increasing daily and restrictions expanding to the entire state on 14 August. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today extended Greater Sydney’s lockdown, now excluding the Central Coast and Illawarra/Shellharbour, until the end of September.