The CEO, President and Members of the Accommodation Association (AA) came together with representatives of Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) for the first time this week at TAA’s annual Chairman’s Drinks in Crown Sydney.

Speaking at the event on Thursday evening, TAA Chief Executive Michael Johnson noted the significance of the occasion in the lead up to the amalgamation of the two associations later this year.

“This joint function is another major milestone in the merging of these two great associations; another step on the road to creating a single powerful voice for our industry at a crucial time,” Johnson said.

On the night, speakers from both associations recounted some of the key challenges that the industry has faced in the last year as well as the top achievements and shared an overwhelmingly positive outlook for the future of the industry.

Speaking on behalf of TAA NSW chairman Richard Doyle, who could not be in attendance, TAA Board Member Glen Boultwood said it’s time for the industry to change its perspective and focus on the opportunities.

“I have never been so optimistic about the future of this industry,” Boultwood said.

“People’s capacity to travel has blossomed through the pandemic, not abated. In certain parts of regional New South Wales, we are currently experiencing record revenue levels and profit levels as people take more shorter breaks.

“We’re starting to slowly see the revival of corporate and businesses events and the booking calendar for businesses’ events in the second half of this year is looking positive.”

Boultwood said the forced cost efficiencies and having to rethink the way hotels are run, will lead the industry to be more profitable in the future.

The TAA has been working closely with government to address the ongoing issue of labour shortages, and Boultwood said the association is pushing hard to increase the timeframe that international students can work.

Accommodation Association of NSW Council Chair, Pat Lonergan, also spoke to these challenges, saying that the forecasted unemployment figure of 3% will put a lot of pressure on businesses to find new talent.

Lonergan also spoke to the importance of getting people back into CBDs.

“One thing that we do need to do is make sure as an industry that we’re getting in there in supporting initiatives to get people back into the CBD.”

Boultwood reiterated the need for a positive outlook when faced with these issues.

“Yes, there are challenges ahead, but we need to change our viewpoint from thinking of them as problems, to think of them as opportunities,” he said.

“Once unlocked, we can deliver record revenue and profit levels over the coming years.

“The time has come to be bold, change the status quo and make this industry the most profitable it has ever been.”

AA President Leanne Harwood also addressed the attendees on the night, stressing the importance of the industry showing a united front.

“We are standing here for the very first time as a single industry voice,” she said.

“I cannot emphasise enough how incredibly important this is for us to lead the recovery of our industry, united and standing together.

“We will lead through this recovery together … we will lead through our states and our territories joined together at the hip.”

Harwood pointed to the associations’ shared achievements, including business support payments, voucher schemes and reimbursements for school holiday cancellations.

“There has been tireless work across the country to continue to advocate and deliver meaningful outcomes for our members and for our sector,” she said.

“It’s been delightful to see the impact of our combined efforts to government most recently over the last few months making a difference. From business support payments which keep the lights on to voucher schemes which encouraged people to walk through our opening doors. We have had a seat at the table with government and been at the front of discussing every issue facing our industry from floods, quarantine, and skills shortages to a subject I’m incredibly passionate about, diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Harwood added, “The best results come when we all work together”.

“This is definitely not a time to sit back and be passive, I agree it is time to be bold. It is time to be optimistic and it’s time to put our best foot forward.”