The Federal Government has announced a new funding package to help regional tourism operators pivot to domestic travellers in the short-term, while putting them in the strongest position to receive international visitors when borders reopen.
The new $50 million Regional Tourism Recovery initiative is aimed at assisting businesses in regions heavily reliant on international tourism, while the $841.6 million Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) will get a $200 million top-up.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said yesterday $100 million of the new BBRF funding would be dedicated to tourism-related infrastructure.
"We know every dollar spent on building local communities is a dollar well spent and that is at the heart of our economic plan for a more secure and resilient Australia," said McCormack, who is also Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said tourism regions had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and this would help them to bounce back firstly by attracting more Australians, and then overseas visitors when the country's international borders re-open.
"Tourism is such an important job creator and driver of many regional economies. We want to make sure that our tourism regions are in the best possible shape on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic," Minister Birmingham said.
"This targeted new fund will support internationally dependent tourism regions to adapt their offerings, experiences and marketing to appeal to domestic visitors in the short-term and be in the strongest possible position to welcome back international tourists down the track.
"Increasingly we are targeting sectors hardest hit, with this regional support sitting alongside our $50 million business events program to get meetings, conventions and conferences up and running again, which is so crucial to the visitor economies of our capital and larger cities."
Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism Jonno Duniam emphasised regional tourism was the lifeblood of so many Australian towns and regional communities.
"Tourism will never be the same again, but there is opportunity in this challenge and the greatest opportunity is in our regions," Assistant Minister Jonno Duniam said.
"Our $50 million package will help to realise this opportunity, it will assist in saving thousands of businesses and jobs in the first and worst hit regional tourism areas across the country."
BBRF Round 5 will be delivered like its previous four rounds, with Infrastructure Project and Community Investment streams. Grant Opportunity Guidelines will be made available shortly, consistent with the existing BBRF framework, to assist potential applicants.
The Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) has welcomed the new regional tourism recovery initiatives to tackle the serious, lasting impact of the COVID-19 recession.
ATIC Executive Director Simon Westaway said major funding of impactful tourism infrastructure for Australia's regions kept and created new jobs via more visitor dispersal and spending.
He said the new $50m federal funding package for nine internationally reliant regions would also genuinely support and more likely better sustain and future-proof iconic tourism assets.
"From Tropical North Queensland, Victoria's Phillip Island and WA's South West with Margaret River, these regions all delivered to a once rising international market," Westaway said.
"Yet international visitors have rapidly evaporated under a closed national border due to the public health response to COVID-19, ensuring depressed conditions to many regional economies.
"Last year Australia generated record international tourist visitation and spending through strong support of our regions. Sadly in 2020 the direct opposite has transpired due to the pandemic."
Westaway explained the ATIC had repeatedly called for a "compelling and captivating" regional tourism product to be enabled to sustainably grow for the future.
"These new Federal programs can contribute to this," he said.
"ATIC will work proactively with federal officials to outline how we believe this new funding can be more effectively spread across the nine international tourism reliant regions of need.
"We welcome the immediate consultation process. ATIC will push for a fast delivery of negotiated program funding of successful initiatives and to enterprises due to the state of tourism regions."
Photo: Visit Phillip Island
Updated at 9:46am AEST on 28 September 2020.
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