The Mornington Peninsula should be included in the Federal Government’s tourism relief package as a matter of urgency, according to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board. Chairwoman Tracey Cooper said that of the nine regions across the nation to receive support, the only Victorian inclusion was Phillip Island.
“There is no funding in this round for us to access,” Ms Cooper said. “The Federal Government should be seeking to support all regions impacted from COVID-19 and the downturn, not just those that have international visitation. At this point, Phillip Island businesses are able to open while ours are closed.”
The Peninsula’s tourism industry deserved additional support because it had been “shut down for an extended time” because of the COVID-19 restrictions while other regions were effectively open, she said.
The Government’s $50 million Recovery for Regional Tourism Fund is slated to provide help for nine regions that are heavily reliant on international tourism. These include WA; the Gold Coast; Kangaroo Island; Lasseter and Alice Springs; the NSW North Coast; Tasmania; tropical north Queensland; the Whitsundays and Mackay; and Phillip Island, which will get up to $3.5 million.
Flinders federal Liberal MP Greg Hunt said there was “no doubt” the tourism industry had taken a huge hit as a result of the pandemic. “I recently spoke with travel agents on the Mornington Peninsula who have been on the front line of those hardest hit by this pandemic,” Mr Hunt said. “While this package will support specific regions of Australia, the Morrison Government continues to provide support for tourism businesses on the Peninsula by JobKeeper and other supports, as well as industry-specific measures. I urge all tourism operators to explore government supports that may assist them.”
The Government this week reduced the JobKeeper wage subsidy from $1500 to $1200 a fortnight for full-time workers and to $750 a fortnight for part-time employees.
A Government statement said the fund would help retain and create jobs by driving visitation, spurring demand and improving product diversity to attract visitors. Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said the fund was targeted to support internationally dependent tourism regions. “This fund will support the regions to adapt their offerings, experiences and marketing to appeal to domestic visitors in the short term and be in the strongest position possible to welcome back international visitors down the track,” Mr Birmingham said.
The Peninsula is heavily reliant on the tourism industry. Mornington Peninsula Shire Council data indicates the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to be greater in the region than Australia overall, with:
• Gross regional product down 21 per cent compared with 6.9 per cent overall for Australia;
• 5900 jobs lost; and,
• An 11 per cent reduction in employment opportunities.
State Government data shows the region received about 7.8 million domestic and international visitors who spent $1.3 billion in the year ending March. The data also indicated tourism was worth $10 billion to the region’s economy in 2017-18.