Corangamite MP Libby Coker has called on the Federal Government to urgently announce a package of support for small tourism operators, small businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus and in particular the travel ban which has prevented thousands of Chinese nationals holidaying in Australia.

“I’m receiving daily reports about the dramatic drop in visitors and the obvious impact that is having on businesses across Corangamite, but particularly the Bellarine, Surf Coast and Otways regions. Clearly, the economic impact along one of Australia’s premier tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road, is becoming very serious. I call on the Government to put together a similar package of relief to the bushfires for affected businesses, workers and communities.”

“The Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) CEO Simon Westaway said earlier this week that it is abundantly clear the overall cost of coronavirus to Australian tourism enterprises and tourism reliant communities will exceed the level of financial and operational impact caused by the devastating bushfires. I would therefore urge the Federal Minister for Tourism Simon Birmingham and the Prime Minister to listen sympathetically to these appeals for assistance.

“There are clearly suggestions for support like deferral of small business tax which are on the table. I will be liaising with our Shadow Ministers, including Senator Don Farrell (Tourism) and Jim Chalmers (Treasurer) to see what other initiatives might be taken.”

“However, many workers in tourism and hospitality in affected areas like the Surf Coast and Otways regions will be affected, as well as business operators. At this stage it is hard to gauge how many have lost shifts or jobs, but what is missing in proposals from ATIC is support for these workers – whether that is in the form of immediate access to social security, one off payments  or some other form of support. I would urge the Federal Government to not forget these workers and families in their response.”

“While residents along the Great Ocean Road often bemoan the impact of thousands of overseas visitors along our coast, they know they are a real driver of our local economy. Travel bans like we have seen brings home very sharply how important these visitors are and how dependent many of our small businesses and our local economy have become on them.

“While I understand that the travel ban on visitors from China is necessary and based on medical advice, I urge the Federal government to end it as soon as possible after it is safe to do so. Every day and week that it continues is hurting businesses and jobs. Travel bans like this, even when necessary, are likely also have an adverse impact on visitor numbers in the longer term. So elements of any package will need to continue for some time I suspect.”  

Ms Coker has written to the Minister for Tourism and the Prime Minister to urge them to urgently develop a package in consultation with the tourism sector.

Libby Coker will attend the Seafood Festival dinner in Apollo Bay tonight and will launch the Festival on Saturday morning.

“I know that the lobster and fishing industry, including around the Otways, has been hard hit by coronavirus from very early on and that has been on-going. While there has been some support from State Governments around the country in allowing boat to public sales, the rolling over of quotas and other initiatives, more can probably be done from a federal perspective in promoting the industry and its amazing produce domestically. That is why the Apollo Bay Seafood Festival is so timely and important this weekend.”