Hellish holidays had tourism teetering in March

NEW data shows just how badly the tourism sector was faring before it almost completely ground to a halt.

Jobs in accommodation had dropped more than 12 per cent in the three months leading up to the first coronavirus lockdown, bringing into focus how seriously the horrific fire season affected tourism.

The summer bushfires ravaged much of the North and Mid North Coast and had a devastating affect on many businesses who had to contend with cancellations and a wary public.

In a strange twist, the region had a short-lived rebound as the bushfire threat eased in the north and the country’s attention turned to the south coast, where blazes burned through popular holiday destinations.

It was enough to send some holiday-makers this way and while some providers experienced higher levels of patronage, it made for an erratic tourist season.

A fire truck is seen near a bushfire in Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour, Tuesday, November 12, 2019. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
A fire truck is seen near a bushfire in Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour, Tuesday, November 12, 2019. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Across the entire country, tourism sector jobs fell by three per cent from March 2019 to March 2020 which the Australian Bureau of Statistics said was the largest fall since the time series began in 2004.

The loss of 21,900 jobs was made all the more stark when compared to the 1.7 per cent increase, or 243,900 jobs, which were added to the economy as a whole over the same time.

Coronavirus restrictions would have had minimal impact on the findings, with the June quarter release expected to show the full extent of the pandemic on tourism activity.

An ABS graph showing how various parts of the tourism shed jobs last year.
An ABS graph showing how various parts of the tourism shed jobs last year.

The data confirms what many had already known, and only highlights the size of the task ahead for governments and communities trying to rebuild the wounded sector.

In response, the State and Federal Government have given small businesses and primary producers more time to request grant support as well as loosening grant eligibility for some farmers.

The $75,000 special disaster grant, which was due to close at the end of August will continue until December, as will the $10,000 Small Business Bushfire Support Grants, $50,000 Small Business Bushfire Recovery Grants and the $500,000 Bushfire Recovery Loan.

Gurmesh Singh is encouraging anyone who has not yet applied for a bushfire support grant to do so.
Gurmesh Singh is encouraging anyone who has not yet applied for a bushfire support grant to do so.

Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh said the extension would take the stress away from those communities still recovering.

“Last season’s bushfires were unprecedented and the support offered by the NSW Government needed to match,” Mr Singh said.

“We encourage bushfire impacted small businesses who have not yet accessed this support to please call Service NSW on 13 77 88.”

Eligibility for the Federal Government’s primary producers grant will also be changed, with applicants only needing to hold an ABN and no longer being required to be registered for GST.

And businesses earning more than 50 per cent of their income from a combination of primary production and goods made directly from that produce will now be eligible for assistance.

Visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au for more information and a full list of changes.



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