WA’s tourism sector will receive an $8.7 million boost from the State Government to help it survive COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia says 266 businesses from the Kimberley to Great Southern will get up to $100,000 each as part of the Tourism Business Survival Grants program.
“While many in the tourism industry are enjoying the benefits of Western Australians travelling locally this year, there are still a number of businesses hurting as a result of COVID-19,” he says.
“Some regions, particularly those in the north of the State, are continuing to feel the impacts of the pandemic.
“A number of tour and experience operators whose businesses were geared towards out-of-State visitors are also facing challenges in the current environment.
“This funding support will help businesses cover costs, purchase supplies and services, and shift their focus to the domestic market.”
Under the program, 51 Coral Coast businesses, 101 Kimberley and Pilbara tourism operators, 19 Golden Outback companies and 31 businesses in the South West and Great Southern will receive a share of the $8.7m.
East Kimberley CCI executive director Caity Craig says the region’s tourism sector took a significant hit during the past seven months.
“Tourism is the first and foremost hit but (that flows to) retail and all trades,” she says.
“All tourism business are feeling a bit scared – we’ve been really lucky that locals have supported locals. A lot of people have been doing touristy things in their own backyard, but a lot of that is at discount prices.
“Our tour companies now have to wait until late April – May for their next lot of tourists, as the temperature is rising, fast making East Kimberley not a preferred holiday option at this time of year.”
She says government-subsidised flights between Perth and the Kimberley in July temporarily boosted tourist numbers, but the damage has already been done to local businesses.
“It definitely helped tourism, they tried to do as much as they could, but…it was too little too late.”
Many of Kununurra’s cafes are operating on limited hours, which Craig says is frustrating for tourists wanting to experience the town.
“Hospitality businesses are struggling to find staff, forcing businesses to reduce hours or even close for up to three days a week.”
New flight incentives for north
The State Government’s fresh announcement of 50,000 discounted flights between Perth and regional WA is aimed to boost tourism further.
Virgin and Qantas will travel between Perth, Broome, Kununurra and Exmouth at discounted rates as part of the $21.4m Regional Aviation Program in this week’s State Budget.
Premier Mark McGowan said the announcement, following a round of government-subsidised regional flights in July, involved the “single biggest regional aviation partnership Western Australia has ever seen”.
“The tourism industry in the State’s north has felt the impacts of COVID-19 the most, with its remoteness making it more difficult to attract intrastate tourists,” he says.
“We are very pleased to again be working with Virgin Australia and Qantas to help Western Australians discover their own backyard at a more affordable price.
The program will offer one-way flights from Perth to Broome from $199, to Kununurra from $249 and Exmouth from $149 at various times within the next 13 months, depending on the region.
CCIWA’s next Regional Pulse report, providing an economic insight into the regions, will be released in mid to late October.
See the most recent edition of Regional Pulse here.