Hospitality venues call for lockdown help

·2-min read

Australia's tourism and hospitality sector is urging the nation's leaders to develop a plan out of the coronavirus pandemic to help the ailing industry.

The Senate's COVID-19 inquiry has held public hearings throughout the health crisis to keep tabs on the government's response.

Officials from major tourism and hospital groups appeared at the inquiry in Canberra on Thursday.

Tourism Accommodation Australia chief Michael Johnson said help was needed for businesses affected by sporadic three-day lockdowns.

He said such lockdowns resulted in about a $100 million hit for the respective cities each time, with the most recent one in Perth.

There is no financial safety net for businesses when they have to close for days at short notice.

"This has a devastating financial, emotional and mental cost to businesses and workers," Mr Johnson told the inquiry.

He has also urged the government to change migration provisions, including allowing international students to work more hours per fortnight on their visas.

The sector is asking governments across the country to create a long-term plan for how and when restrictions still impacting the sector will be eased.

"We feel like we are in a bit of a Mexican stand-off between the states and the Commonwealth," Australian Hotels Association boss Stephen Ferguson said.

"One side blaming the other."

Australian Hotels Association general manager for the ACT Anthony Brierley said overhead costs were beginning to rise as loan deferrals ended.

"The expectation that we just survive indefinitely on 50 per cent capacity is really scary, it's a hibernation from which we're not being allowed to fully wake."

Corporate travel has not returned with companies reluctant to book trips in case of lockdowns.

The inquiry also heard from senior infrastructure department officials about the government's program to increase consumer confidence in domestic travel.

Some 800,000 discounted tickets for flights on select domestic routes have been offered, with only about 20 per cent still available.

Officials revealed Qantas, including Jetstar, will receive $144.8 million through the program.

Virgin will get $40.3 million, Airnorth $12.8 million and Rex $6.4 million.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison travelled to Darwin to speak with the tourism industry.

Mr Morrison is open to facilities to bring overseas workers in for tourism

"Having something a bit more bespoke for the territory I think is very much warranted based on what I've heard here," he told Mix 104.9 radio.

"We've got to keep Australia COVID-safe and keep COVID out of the country but this can be done.

"But it's going to require a partnership I think between the commercial sector, the private sector, ourselves and ultimately the Northern Territory government has to be comfortable and sign off on all the health issues."