July 23, 2024 12:26 AM

Tourism Call for Support


Labor tourism spokesperson Senator Don Farrell (left) and Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon heard the difficulties facing tourism operators because of border lockdowns from Helloworld’s Rachael McGuirk and Penny Nagle in Singleton last week.

Experienced tourism operators Penny Nagle and Rachael McGuirk made it very clear to the Labor tourism spokesperson Senator Don Farrell that they need help and they need it now.

Senator Farrell listened quietly as the operators revealed just how desperate the industry was and how their businesses were clinging on to a lifeline of hope for funding support when the budget is heard in May.

Already struggling, the removal of jobkeeper support last month has been the final nail in the coffin for an industry barely surviving.

Helloworld’s Rachael McGuirk said her business dropped from a $4.5million turnover in 2019 to just $8,000 last year.  She moved her shop-front business in Scone to her loungeroom and her staff were encouraged to find alternative employment.

Penny said the experience was the same for all tourism operators.

“You can’t sell a product when there is nothing to sell,” Penny said.

“People are booking domestically just to support us but it is not enough business.”

“We have survived things like the Bali bombing, SARS, bird flu, the tsunami in Japan but nothing has impacted us to this degree,” Rachael added.

“It has closed every single opportunity for international business.

“I do not disagree with closing the borders, but it stopped our businesses from being able to operate.”

Given it was a Federal government decision to close the borders, Senator Farrell and Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon said the government had a special obligation to tourism operators to provide support.

Adding to the challenges is the constant demand to deal with the refund process that was a roller coaster of changing situations and a mile of paperwork neither woman can walk away from.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the special circumstances facing travel agents needed to be considered.

“We provide drought assistance in challenging times and we need to do the same thing for travel agents, it was a federal government decision that put them in this situation so they (federal government) should provide assistance,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Senator Farrell said he would raise the plight of travel agents when the budget is discussed on May 6 and said he believed once the problems of the sector were raised, the government would have to fix it.