The Western Australian Government has today announced a multi-million dollar survival and recovery package to help small tourism businesses adapt to the COVID-19 landscape.
As the state looks set to cautiously ease some regional travel and other restrictions from Monday 18 May, the $14.4 million Tourism Recovery Program will support a staged return to business.
The initiative will start with $10.4 million in one-off cash grants for up to 1,600 individual small businesses around the state.
Worth $6,500 each, these grants will go to eligible sole traders and businesses with four or less employees and annual taxable wages of less than $1 million, covering sub-sectors such as accommodation, attraction, tour and transport.
The second, $4 million Tourism Business Survival Grants package will be available for tourism operators dealing with exceptionally difficult circumstances, with grants of $25,000-$100,000 available.
The Survival Grants will target businesses located in parts of the State with more restrictive travel bans in place, or whose circumstances otherwise mean they will face a more difficult road to recovery.
As of next Monday the number of borders within the state is set to drop from 13 to only four, allowing:
- Travel between the South-West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt, Perth and Peel regions;
- Travel between the Mid-West, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions (excluding Biosecurity zone);
- Travel within the Goldfields-Esperance region (excluding the Biosecurity zone); and
- Travel permitted within the Kimberley local government areas (the Commonwealth's Biosecurity zone remains in place).
Businesses that deliver iconic experiences are also eligible to apply for the survival payments. A probity auditor would review the robust and transparent criteria-led application and panel assessment.
As part of the application process, businesses are required to submit a recovery and marketing plan to outline how the funding will be used and indicate how their product, service or experience could be adapted.
Businesses must have a valid Australian Business Number and be an active part of the WA tourism industry through membership of one of the State's eligible tourism organisations, or tourism accreditation programs.
"COVID-19 has been devastating for WA tourism - with thousands of small businesses impacted all around the State," says Premier Mark McGowan.
"Our hearts go out to everyone that has been impacted by this pandemic.
"This new funding package will help small tourism operators adjust and adapt their businesses away from targeting the international and interstate market and towards Western Australians."
The Premier says with the relaxation of restrictions it is expected thousands of Western Australians will be looking to travel around the state this year, and the plan is to have as many local businesses as possible benefit from these opportunities.
"I want to acknowledge every Western Australian for their patience during this COVID-19 pandemic. It's been trying and nothing like any of us have ever experienced before," he says.
"The broadened boundaries still impact areas including the regions north of our State and the Goldfields-Esperance region along with biosecurity regions and remote communities. The restrictions are in place to protect more vulnerable communities north of our State. Where we can alter these, we will.
"While it's starting to look more encouraging we're not out of the woods yet and every move and adjustment is made based on the best of health advice."
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia says in only a few short months WA tourism has gone from enjoying record international and interstate visitor numbers to a complete industry shutdown.
"The impact on the thousands of Western Australians who make their living in the sector has been severe," he says.
"With international and interstate border restrictions expected to remain for some time, we are now focused on helping tourism operators to adjust their businesses to appeal to the intrastate market.
"The Tourism Recovery Fund will provide cash grants direct to these small businesses to help them reorganise and refocus to the new environment."
Updated at 1:07pm AEST on 13 May 2020.
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