The Greater Sydney two-week lockdown covering the entire NSW school holidays is expected to cost Australia’s struggling tourism industry more than $6 billion.
The Tourism and Transport Forum says the industry will struggle to survive more lockdowns, imploring the federal government to consider subsidies and urgently boost vaccine rollout rates.
It estimates the latest COVID-19 outbreak and the border restrictions imposed on Sydney and NSW residents will devastate the mid-year school holiday period for travel-related firms, with spending predicted to be down by $6.3 billion nationally.
Forum chief Margy Osmond says NSW’s tourism sector will lose business worth $2.1 billion – or $153 million a day – almost one third of the total losses predicted nationally for the holiday period.
It’s the third school holidays in a row that a COVID outbreak had forced a lockdown in a capital city.
“While health remains the number one priority in the management of COVID-19 … I’m not sure how much longer we can survive while this lack of certainty continues,” Ms Osmond said on Monday.
The latest outbreak was proof of how important it was for the vaccination program to be fast-tracked, she said.
“The tourism industry continues to suffer from a lack of international travel and the lack of confidence among Australians in the domestic travel market and in planning holidays is diabolical, making it very difficult for businesses in our sector to stay afloat,” Ms Osmond said.
TTF data showed that in the equivalent 2019 school holidays more than 1.7 million Australians travelled domestically but it’s predicted the Sydney lockdown will see that number drop by 73 per cent – to about 460,000 travellers.
Australia now has outbreaks in NSW, Western Australia and Queensland and the Northern Territory causing lockdowns, tightened restrictions and border closures.
This situation confirmed the federal government’s decision to end the Jobkeeper wage subsidy – particularly for the tourism industry – in March “was somewhat short-sighted”, Ms Osmond said.
“They will now need to look very seriously at some other form of ongoing support for the tourism sector to ensure we come out the other side of the pandemic,” she said.