Tourism and Hospitality Industry

Speech in Parliament of South Australia regarding the the effects of COVID-19 to the tourism and hospitality industries.

I rise today to talk about the plight of our tourism and hospitality industry. Last week, the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia released their quarterly barometer and, unsurprisingly, the outcomes from the respondents were stark. They had their lowest ever recorded business confidence—lowest ever. Fifty-five per cent of respondents had seen a decrease in business activity, and what concerns me even more is the expectation in the next quarter that business activity will be even weaker.

I continue to have conversations with stakeholders in this area: the tour operators, the hotel managers, the people who are running the tours and the people who sell South Australia to the world. It is grim out there. It has been incredibly challenging that their businesses have had to close overnight. Many of them have been able access JobKeeper, and without that support their businesses would have closed.

JobKeeper is not a complete panacea. As many people have discovered, they had to put forward money to then be reimbursed, but they saw it as a lifeline for their businesses to survive. That is why I was so shocked when the Prime Minister yesterday put it out there that the JobKeeper may not go until 27 of September, as he initially said it would, and that maybe things are well enough for that to be brought forward.

I can tell you that it is not okay for our tourism and hospitality industry. They are at the lowest ebb ever recorded. We now have our road map and South Australians cannot get wait to get on the road and out to our regional areas. However, we know that our national borders will be closed for some time and our state borders are closed for the foreseeable future. The only thing that is alive is domestic tourism.

While I think that will mean a renaissance for domestic tourism, which I welcome, let me be clear: this industry is on its knees. The tourism and hospitality sectors need your attention and will need your attention for some time. We know that the industry had already expressed some concerns. A slowing down in activity before the bushfires and before the cessation of international travel, particularly from China, hit the industry incredibly hard. As we start to open up within the state and regional tourism becomes available for South Australians, gaps are emerging. This government can act upon these gaps.

Throughout my conversations, I was approached by the bus and coach industry, and tour operators who take groups of people particularly through our wonderful regional areas. They might take them to see the silo art, to eat oysters in Coffin Bay or to go up to Hahndorf. Let me tell you this: the demand for tour operators and coach tours for domestic tourism is there and they are ready to get going. However, they need clarification on how they can implement social distancing. They have written to the Premier asking him to act. Now that regional travel is on the table, let's make sure that we support one of the safer ways for groups to go into regional areas and enjoy their time and spend their money at the local bakeries and cafes.

Outdoors SA recently applied for the Community and Jobs Support Fund and was promptly told, 'You are not that important; you are not core.' We pride ourselves on adventure tourism. We have talked about the activation of our national parks, which I welcome, but this peak group has been told that it is not that important. This is a mistake; they need your support. I will end my discussion on the support for tour operators focusing on international tourists. They now have zero people coming through. They need your attention and they need your support.