Dan Tehan, Gordon Kerr, Duffy Boat Hire and Clark Kirby, Village Roadshow Theme Parks panel discussion with Rebecca Maddern, Weekend Today
Rebecca Maddern: Well, from 1.00am Queensland will dismantle its border checkpoints, and millions of people will be able to freely enter the sunshine state without undergoing mandatory hotel quarantine. But, the announcement has been met by caution, especially by businesses and tourism operators who lack confidence it will stay this way. For more on this I’m now joined by Gordon Kerr from Duffy Boat Hire, Clark Kirby from Village Roadshow Theme Parks, and Dan Tehan, the Minister for Tourism. Hello, gentlemen. Gordon, well, I’ll start with you. Only hours until we see free travel between New South Wales and Queensland. Just how much of a boost will that give your business?
Gordon Kerr: Good morning, Bec. Look, it’s going to be absolutely fantastic. It’s a shame that it didn’t happen a few weeks ago when, obviously, we still had school holidays and people were off work. But, we are still extremely excited.
Maddern: Clark, Movie World, Sea World, Wet‘n’Wild, all theme parks families around the country flock to. Are you worried that the borders will snap shut as quickly as they did last time?
Clark Kirby: Hi, Bec. Look, it’s certainly a concern for us. We did see a great influx of travellers, particularly from New South Wales, one of our key, sorry, our key domestic market previously. And, when the borders snapped shut we, obviously, were met with a lot of cancellations. But, we are really confident this time around that the Government will be a lot more cautious about snapping those borders shut, because it is so important to the tourism industry up here that has hurt for so long.
Maddern: Indeed. Well, Minister Tehan, what is the Government doing to give people that confidence to travel again, that the borders, you know, won’t be slammed shut, and their travel plans, you know, won’t be ruined?
Dan Tehan: Well, one of the things we’re doing is driving demand and we’re launching this week our ‘Holiday Here’ campaign, a $5 million campaign to get people travelling again. You’re back at work, the kids are back at school, so there’s not a better time to think about your next holiday, and we have just such wonderful destinations right across our nation. So, there’s a big marketing campaign taking place this week to get people to be booking that next holiday. We know that it has to be here in Australia — it’s very unlikely that we’re going to be travelling overseas this year — so explore Australia, go right across the breadth of our nation. There’s just so many wonderful things to do, and that’s what we’re encouraging people to do. We’ve also got other support and assistance for the sector, and we’ll be continuing to look at what shape and form that takes over the coming months but the most important thing at the moment is, for all Australians, book your next holiday and book it here in Australia.
Maddern: You don’t have to twist my arm about booking a holiday, that’s for sure. Gordon, it is so great that domestic travel is getting a restart, but, obviously, it’s not a full recovery. How much of your business relies on overseas visitors? Because, I don’t think they’re coming here for quite some time.
Kerr: It’s a very good question, Bec. Look, our company is one of those businesses highly exposed to the international market. When the coronavirus hit, 80 per cent of our trade was international. So, you know, our business stopped so fast it nearly threw us out the front of the boats, no pun intended. But, it was absolutely savage, and this is where, you know, I think the Federal Government has done an amazing job with JobKeeper, and keeping the businesses all over Australia afloat during this period. But, I would say that, you know, be very careful about the next step. Because, what’s the point in bringing us all across the desert, you know, which they have done very, very well, only to, you know, nudge us up against a cliff at the end of March, where we all drop off. So, I would certainly ask the Government to reconsider that one.
Maddern: Clark, your businesses are a great litmus tester for what’s actually going on in Queensland, because everybody goes to Queensland with kids and they go straight to your theme parks. Do you think that the Queensland tourism sector is at crisis point?
Kirby: Bec, it’s a really good question. I know myself and my fellow tourism operators here in Queensland are really feeling the pain at the moment. Obviously, we have lost the entirety of our summer trade, certainly all of international, but certainly, also, the majority of Australia, which really hurts us. We rely on that so greatly. But, look, on the positive side, we are unique in Australia, here in Queensland. This is paradise on earth, and when we do have those borders open, we see a great influx of people, right across Australia, coming here. I would echo the comments from Gordon before about the importance of the recovery, how long that would take. I know there are a lot of initiatives being talked about from all levels of government. Even just the other day I was reading about another initiative proposed out of Tasmania where they could make potential travel, domestic travel, tax deductible, to really encourage people to take those holidays at home. So, anything like that to really give people the confidence and reason to travel and book that next holiday will be greatly appreciated.
Maddern: Minister, you’ve obviously been listening to Clark and Gordon there, and international travel looks off the cards for most of this year, probably. What is the Government doing to support businesses that rely so heavily on that international travel?
Tehan: Well, obviously, we’ve put a range of measures in place and those measures will continue to be rolled out. When it comes to JobKeeper it ends at the end of March, but I’ve been in very good consultations with the sector as to what’s the plan post-JobKeeper. I think that’s the most important thing. Obviously, we’ve got this marketing campaign, ‘Holiday Here’, which we’re rolling out again this week, but there’ll be other aspects to the plan as well, and we’ve got that under active consideration at the moment. And, I’ll continue to consult with the sector going forward, so we make sure that that plan will give the sector the confidence that it needs to rebound strongly this year when it comes to domestic tourism, and then rebound strongly with international tourism, hopefully when it reboots again next year.
Maddern: So, is part of that plan to extend JobKeeper, or it’s going to be something else entirely different?
Tehan: Look, we’ve made it very clear that JobKeeper will end at the end of March, so what I’m doing is working with the sector, and consulting with the sector, as to what support will be necessary post-JobKeeper. And, those consultations have been very good. I’ve had them before Christmas, between Christmas and New Year and, obviously, the beginning of January, and those consultations continue. So, we’re still looking at that. We’ve got Treasury doing modelling, looking at the impact, especially the loss of international tourism has had on specific regions, and we’ll put a plan together and that plan will be thorough, it will be worked through with the sector. We want to make sure that a sector that creates 660,000 jobs in our economy will be able to continue, both servicing the domestic tourism market this year, hopefully we might get some bubbles up and running, as well — the New Zealand bubble hopefully will be up and running again shortly, and then there are other opportunities with Singapore, with Japan, potentially, or other markets. But, really making sure that next year, hopefully with a very successful global rollout of the vaccine, we’re ready to go again when it comes to international tourism which is, obviously, another significant, key component to the domestic tourism, to the tourism market.
Maddern: Alright, well, that sounds great to me, Minister. Thank you very much for your time. And, Clark and Gordon, all the best, thank you.
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