Tourism Whitsundays is asking, “can the Federal Government provide an exemption to eligible tourism and hospitality businesses to allow them to access JobKeeper for new employees?”
The tourism and hospitality industry, particularly in The Whitsundays, ordinarily has a high turnover rate of staff—many of which are transient. This has resulted in a significant number of tourism and hospitality employees leaving their jobs during the pandemic to return home to family or to take up roles in industries less affected by COVID-19.
For businesses looking to rebuild and recommence operations, many are forced to recruit new staff to replace those that have left. Newly recruited staff by default are not eligible to receive JobKeeper payments and, as such, the JobKeeper support shrinks markedly for the industry and every month border closures apply.
Over the past four months, at least 25% of the tourism and hospitality staff in The Whitsundays have become ineligible to receive JobKeeper. This number will continue to increase over the next four months, as many businesses have lost, in some cases, 50% of previously underwritten JobKeeper staff and have had to replace them with full cost personnel. The payments to support tourism and hospitality businesses in the Whitsunday region have halved over the past eight months, while operating costs have remained consistent with what they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key representatives from the Whitsunday tourism industry are unambiguous in their message on behalf of the entire sector, to implore the federal government to provide exemptions through the JobKeeper package for tourism and hospitality businesses. The eligibility criteria connected to JobKeeper for many of these businesses are having a drastic impact on the financial viability in the short and longer-term.
As Australia enters the second wave of COVID-19, these businesses are relying on the Federal Government’s JobKeeper stimulus to survive. However, with so many new employees not eligible and the border closures in place, the financial impacts will be dire for the Queensland tourism industry.