• Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC)
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Chief Executive’s Coronavirus Member Update

07 /04/ 2020 Comments are Closed

If you would like to receive these updates along with other VTIC communications straight to your inbox, now is the time to sign-up as a member as we are waiving membership fees for In the Loop and Essentials memberships until 31 December 2020.

Visit the VTIC website for more details or contact a member of the team on 03 8662 5333 or membership@vtic.com.au and they’ll assist you with your FREE membership.

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Update #14, Tuesday 8 April 2020

The Prime Minister today announced further details on commercial tenancies and released COVID-19 modelling used to inform the course of actions taken by National Cabinet in future.

The good news is that all the pain we are currently going through with social distancing and isolation is working, and we have started to flatten the curve; but the PM was very direct in saying that we cannot be complacent and we need to continue these measures for the foreseeable future.

Most importantly, he was emphatic that this Easter holiday season is no time to lessen our resolve and we must STAY AT HOME and continue to do our part.

I’ve heard from many of our members who are taking that position seriously and discouraging people who are calling to make bookings over the Easter break. It’s unfortunate that our industry must play police on this issue, but well done to so many of you that have taken the strong approach in this regard. I know this is the hardest thing we have ever had to do, at a time when we would normally be welcoming visitors, but sadly this is our new normal – at least for now.

The $130 billion JobKeeper legislation will be debated in Federal Parliament tomorrow and we will be providing you with another update following that to hopefully shed some light on the guidelines for these payments. I know this is important to so many of you and VTIC will look to explain the detail as it comes to hand.

Below we’re providing a summary of today’s announcements for you…

Further details on commercial tenancies
Last week the Prime Minister announced that National Cabinet will implement a series of measures as part of a business hibernation strategy. These measures are designed to preserve the economy and ensure employees remain connected with businesses and with their jobs so that on the other side of COVID-19 Australia can bounce back.

Today, as part of the strategy, the Prime Minister announced further information on the mandatory Code of Conduct for commercial tenancy agreements agreed by the National Cabinet. Further details on the Code include:

  • Applicable to any tenancies where the landlord or tenant applies for the JobKeeper program and where they have a turnover of $50 million or less.
  • Proportionality to rent reductions is based on the tenant’s decline in turnover.
  • The waivers will have to account for at least 50 per cent of the reduction in business and deferrals must be spread over the remaining time on a lease and for no less than 12 months.
  • Flexibility will allow tenants and landlords to tailor appropriate temporary arrangements that consider their circumstances.
  • Australian and foreign banks along with other financial institutions operating in Australia are expected to support landlords and tenants with appropriate flexibility.
  • Landlords must not terminate the lease or draw on a tenant’s security. Likewise, tenants must honour the lease.

Full details on the mandatory code of conduct are available on the Prime Minister’s website.

Update to JobKeeper
The Federal Government has amended the eligibility requirements for charities and not-for-profit organisations under the JobKeeper program. All charities registered with the national regulator are now able to access the JobKeeper payment if they estimate their turnover has or will likely fall by 15 per cent or more.

For further details on JobKeeper, please visit The Treasury website.

Other recent announcements
The ATO is introducing a new optional method of claiming deductions for those working from home due to COVID-19. The new method will allow claims of 80 cents per hour for all running expenses, rather than needing to calculate costs for specific running expenses. To use this new method, keep a record of the hours worked at home, e.g. timesheets or diary notes. Further details are available from the ATO website.

The Prime Minister has advised that employers should allow workers to work from home wherever and whenever they can. In addition, it has provided advice on how to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and help limit the spread. Visit Safe Work Australia for details.

The Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, provided a summary of the scenario modelling being undertaken to inform how Australia is preparing our health system, including our intensive care unit supply, to respond to COVID-19. They stressed that the current modelling is based on international data of confirmed cases and resulting deaths. There will be further modelling done specifically using Australian data which will help to inform our projections and future responses.

It’s especially great to see that this modelling is being undertaken by the Doherty Institute in conjunction with Melbourne University and the Royal Melbourne Hospital to shape and inform national action plans for our country.

You can view more information here with the full modelling papers available from the Doherty Institute.

– Felicia

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Update #13, Friday 3 April 2020

With the weekend ahead and many considering the upcoming Easter period, this afternoon the Prime Minister and Premier respectively provided further COVID-19 updates following their National Cabinet meeting. Below are details on the relevant announcements.

Commercial tenancies
The Prime Minister announced today that a mandatory code of conduct would be imposed on commercial and retail tenants and the National Cabinet was working towards conditions for this code.  Under this code of practice, if a landlord and tenant cannot agree, both parties would enter mediation.

Further details on commercial tenancy discussions and the principles that guide this code are available via the Prime Minister’s update from today.

The Prime Minister said that where businesses have been affected by coronavirus, landlords and tenants are encouraged to negotiate in good faith, in the hope they can reach an agreeable position for both parties. The Prime Minister stated that if a business has not had a reduction in their business turnover, their leasing arrangements should not change. In addition, while there was a moratorium on evictions, businesses are still responsible for the payment of their rent.

For businesses that are experiencing desperate times and are unsure if they can wait for JobKeeper payments to come, the Prime Minister urged that those businesses need to contact their bank immediately.

Working Holiday Visas
Those on holiday visas including backpackers travelling to farms for fruit-picking and other jobs will also be forced to self-isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Working holiday-makers will have to register that they are in quarantine with the government.

Once the self-isolation period is completed, employers must check workers documentation prior to the commencement of any work.

These measures have been put in place to protect rural and regional areas, yet address concerns regarding labour shortages for essential work.

The Prime Minister was clear that social distancing rules continue to apply and commented, “You can’t have six backpackers in a caravan, up out in rural parts of the country. That’s not on. Not going to happen,”.

Easter celebrations including leisure activities
The Prime Minister reiterated that people should not be travelling for the Easter holidays.

In addition, the Premier confirmed in his press conference that all recreational pursuits except basic exercise are banned. Activities such as golf, fishing, hunting and camping are not allowed.  Read more in this Herald Sun article.

Premier’s update including new Victorian Crisis Council of Cabinet
The Premier announced a new crisis council of cabinet that includes the Hon. Martin Pakula MP, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events.

Whilst announcing the new cabinet, the Premier was questioned on the Prime Minister’s earlier update regarding commercial tenancies.  He indicated that he is looking into opportunities to incentivise worst affected businesses and businesses that are participating in the JobKeeper Program. Further details on this are to come from the Premier in future announcements.

– Felicia

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Update #12, Monday 30 March 2020

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced a $130 billion JobKeeper payment that will help save thousands of jobs in the tourism, hospitality, events and accommodation sectors.

The package will deliver $1,500 a fortnight directly to employers to assist them in retaining staff in their businesses. The scheme will support employees who were on the books dating back to 1 March 2020, with the first payments effective from 1 May 2020.

The payment of $1,500 is per eligible employee, and will be made by the ATO  for a maximum period of 6 months. This is available to businesses that have:

  • A turnover of less than $1 billion and their turnover will be reduced by more than 30 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago; or
  • A turnover of over $1 billion and their turnover will be reduced by more than 50 per cent relative to a comparable period a year ago.
  • Not-for-profit entities and self-employed individuals that meet the turnover criteria are eligible to apply.

VTIC has been advocating for the wage subsidy solution as a key priority to provide the lifeline needed to assist our industry to retain valued staff. This means that many of you, our members, will be able to retain your dedicated and passionate staff to kick-start the recovery process on the other side of this crisis.

More information for employers is available via this fact sheet, and you can sign-up for updates and register your interest here. You can read the VTIC media release on JobKeeper here.

Business Support Fund applications now open
As part of the Victorian Government’s $1.7 billion Economic Survival Package, today applications opened for the $500 million Business Support Fund. This fund provides grants of $10,000 per small employing business with a turnover of more than $75,000 and payroll of less than $650,000.

You can read the fact sheet here, and find out more information and apply on the Business Victoria website.

These vital measures will support many businesses who have been struggling under the current pressures. Please ensure you familiarise yourself on the detail of these packages, as they many greatly assist you in navigating the current challenges.

– Felicia

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Update #11, Sunday 29 March 2020

The Prime Minister has tonight updated the Australian population further following another National Cabinet Meeting this afternoon.
The main highlights include:

  • Further restrictions on Public Gatherings noting that we are now reducing gatherings outside the home to a maximum of two people.
    • You are permitted to gather with members of your household beyond two, but any non-family household gatherings outside are restricted to two people.
    • This is now enforceable at the discretion of each state.
  • The Prime Minister is now asking everyone to stay home unless for the purposes of Medical Care or Compassionate Needs; Exercise; Work/Education if you cannot do that at home; persons over the age of 70 should stay home and self-isolate for their own protection.
  • States and Territories will also be placing a moratorium on both commercial and residential tenants being evicted for the next six months.
    • The PM is encouraging businesses to start negotiations with your landlords and banks and is asking everyone to make concessions.
    • The key thing is to ensure that we still have businesses in these premises to be able to restart quickly once we get to the other side of this crisis.
    • Our Premier of Victoria will be holding a press conference tomorrow morning to provide more detail on how Victoria will be implementing these latest restrictions.

It’s our understanding that the Prime Minister will be making a further announcement mid this week about wage subsidies that may help businesses in their decisions about staff. They are asking employers to just hold on a few more days while he works with the Treasurer to shape their next economic package.

Here’s a Sydney Morning Herald article to that effect….

UK-style wage subsidy on the way in Morrison’s plan to pay workers who lose jobs

Australians who lose their jobs will be given a wage subsidy to guarantee a share of their income as the coronavirus crisis wipes out hundreds of thousands of jobs, in a government plan to be announced within days

Read more in The Sydney Morning Herald

As well as the Prime Minister’s announcements today, and further to the $1.7 billion economic survival package announced last week by our Premier, additional details regarding elements of  the $500 million Business Support Fund were announced on Saturday.

The fund will include access to $10,000 grants from this Monday 30 March to over 30,000 employers in Victoria with payroll less than $650,000. To understand whether you are eligible, and to receive more details, be sure to register your interest at Economic Survival and Jobs Package.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

To help you in seeking out information on Federal Business Support Measures, here’s a couple links that might prove really useful….

New Australian Government communication tools

  • To get updates from the Australian Government you can receive them directly via the COVID-19 WhatsApp. Ensure you have downloaded WhatsApp from the App Store, then visit www.aus.gov.au/whatsapp and follow the prompts
  • Download the new Australian Government Coronavirus app by visiting your App Store and search Coronavirus Australia.

We will be updating you further following the Premier’s press conference tomorrow morning.

– Felicia

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Update #10, Friday 27 March 2020

TOUGH TIMES DON’T LAST, TOUGH PEOPLE DO

– Robert Schuller

I was reminded of this quote yesterday in a poignant video I watched that was recorded by a flight attendant as the last Virgin Australia flight landed in New Zealand for the foreseeable future. This is a dark time for our industry, and we are reminded of that everywhere, every day; but now more than ever, we need to stick together to support one another in navigating these turbulent waters.

The team and I are continuing to work hard for you, our members, and the wider tourism and events sector in providing up-to-date and valuable information; as we know with all the changes in this ever evolving crisis, it’s difficult to identify a ‘single source of truth’ – and staying on top of the plethora of information that’s being released daily is overwhelming.

Importantly, I have been working closely with all levels of government to identify opportunities to help support you through the challenges we are facing as an industry. I know you are hurting, both professionally and personally. I feel your pain with every conversation that I have; but I also know that we are a remarkable industry filled with remarkable people who want to support each other to get through this and emerge as an industry stronger and more resilient than ever.

As an industry we will get through this crisis and VTIC is committed to continuing to be the dedicated strong voice for our sector, fighting hard to ensure that our priorities are front and centre throughout this crisis. We know that we are stronger together and a unified industry is a powerful force.

To that end, this update includes some developments in the restrictions announced since my last update, plus details that can support you while you’re going through this devastating time.

Today, the Prime Minister has further advanced the nation’s Stage 2 restrictions and announced that any visitors coming in from overseas from midnight Saturday will go into mandatory 14-day quarantine in the Australian city where they have re-entered the country. These people will be quarantined in hotel rooms that have already been secured for this purpose, and VTIC has been working closely with our colleagues in government to support this project.

VTIC has today released a statement in response to the Prime Minister’s announcement calling for State and Federal Government to collaborate urgently on further measures to support the industry in light of the systematic shutdown that we have endured since Saturday 1 February. You can read our statement here.  

The Prime Minister also previously announced the creation of a new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC). The NCCC will coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of coronavirus and is about mobilising a whole-of-society and whole-of-economy effort, ensuring resources are coordinated in an effective manner. More information on the NCCC can be found here.

The VTIC website has now been updated in an effort to create a key resource for you to use to keep up with information for tourism businesses. We’ve included the following links to support you in sourcing valuable information:

Tourism Australia 
Tourism Australia have been regularly updating their information on the support and assistance packages that are available from State and Federal Governments relating to both Bushfire Recovery and coronavirus (COVID-19)
> click here

Visit Victoria 
Visit Victoria have developed live pages on their corporate website regarding their response and resources on coronavirus, along with FAQs and other important sources of helpful information and guidelines.
> click here 

The Victorian Government’s Economic Survival and Jobs Package
As part of a $1.7 billion economic survival package, the Victorian Government announced a $500 million Business Support Fund to assist small to medium businesses in industries hardest hit by impacts of coronavirus, including tourism, hospitality, accommodation, events and the arts.

Eligibility criteria and details are yet to be confirmed however we encourage you all to register your interest to receive more details. We’re hoping to see further details on this critical initiative sometime later next week.

Business support 
We have provided information on business support available based on your business type, including package announcements from the Federal and State Governments on our website

If you are seeking further advice in relation to operating your business during this time of crisis, please call Business Victoria on 13 22 15 and their dedicated team will assist you.

And don’t forget about this measure introduced as part of the $66 billion economic package introduced by the Australian Government last week….

Boosting Cash Flow Package
Under the Boosting Cash Flow package (which now builds upon a previous announcement), small and medium businesses who were employing staff prior to Thursday 12 March 2020 will automatically receive between $20,000 and $100,000 between April and October 2020.

The ATO will work out the figure and give businesses credits or refunds when they lodge their BAS. If you lodge BAS quarterly, the total assistance amount will effectively be twice the amount of PAYG withheld from wages from January to June. If you lodge BAS monthly, the total assistance will effectively be 6 times your March PAYG withheld plus twice the withheld amounts for April, May and June. The minimum and maximum as above will apply. The assistance is not a loan; it is tax free income of the business.
To receive the assistance payments in full, the business must “continue to be active” in July to September 2020, though no definition is given about what this means. Presumably it relates to continuing to lodge a BAS, though it might also refer to continuing to report some wages paid within your BAS for this July to September period. Businesses should consult their accountant to confirm their own circumstances.

Working with your customers with cancellations
During this time, it is likely your customers and guests will be cancelling. You may be wondering what happens if they are cancelling due to COVID-19, and whether you can claim cancellation costs. More information on this is available on the VTIC website and from Consumer Affairs Victoria.

The National Cabinet continues to meet regularly to stay ahead of this fast-moving issue. We will continue to follow any developments and keep you informed via our regular updates and of course on our website at www.vtic.com.au/coronavirus.

If you have colleagues that are not currently members of VTIC, please encourage them to take advantage of our FREE membership offer which they can access here

Staying connected right now is vital and, by accessing one of our FREE membership levels, we can ensure that every tourism operator is across the support that’s out there at the State and Federal levels to assist them.

– Felicia

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Update #9, Sunday 22 March 2020

This weekend has been an unimaginable roller coaster ride.

There were high notes that came in the form of the incredibly generous state and federal economic relief packages to support businesses to stay afloat. These announcements were coupled with the challenging advice from the Prime Minister foreshadowing the cancellation of all non-essential domestic travel by the National Cabinet and the advice from the Premier of Victoria that all non-essential services will be closed from Tuesday. This move will see schools, restaurants, pubs, retail shops and salons in our state shut down in an effort to contain the impacts of COVID-19.

These collective decisions all but halt our sector and mean that any hope over the Easter season of recovering losses endured during the January bushfires have largely slipped away.

We now need to focus on making sure the industry is accessing all the support they may be eligible for from the packages announced this weekend by the state and federal governments.

I just wanted to do a brief summary here for you of what’s been announced over the past two days –

$1.7 billion Victorian Government relief package announced on Saturday 21 March

1. Payroll Tax Relief for businesses with payroll under $3 million

  • Refund of payroll tax paid by eligible businesses backdated to 1 July 2019
  • Deferral of future tax for the current financial year.

2. Cash allocations of $113,000, with an average payment of $24,000, to 24,000 Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who together employ over 400,000 people in Victoria (eligibility criteria to be determined).

3. $500 million Business Support Package for industries hardest hit by the impacts of coronavirus –

  • Namely tourism, hospitality, accommodation, events and the arts
  • VTIC will be engaging with government to ensure that our industry is well represented as the elements of this package are shaped and refined.

4. $500 million to look after displaced workers and workers that have been stood down

  • Government has introduced a register to match the skills of displaced workers with other businesses looking to gear up in the current environment
  • You can access this register here www.vic.gov.au/workingforvictoria

5. $100 million allocated to remove rent obligations for commercial businesses that operate in government properties.

6. Waiving of liquor licensing fees.

7. The Treasurer has implemented that all invoices due to businesses for services provided to government agencies must be paid within 5 days to improve cash flow.

8. Land Tax Relief

  • Land holdings of less than $1 million will receive a reprieve on payments for this year and a liability deferral out to 2021.

 

$66 billion support package announced by the Federal Government on Sunday 22 March
Today the Prime Minister announced a further support package to assist small businesses to stay in business and help keep core staff employed. This is in addition to the $17.6 billion package announced on Thursday 12 March. Over the last 10 days, these economic support measures represent $189 billion overall, or nearly 10 per cent of the nation’s total economy.

Key highlights include –

1. Cash payments of between $20,000 and $100,000 for SMEs and Not-for-profits (NFPs) with annual turnover of up to $50 million

  • All employing small businesses will have access to at least $20,000 in payments and 30,000 NFP businesses can also access this payment
  • These funds will be allocated through the existing tax system and will commence from Tuesday 28 April 2020.

2. The Commonwealth will guarantee unsecured loans of up to $250,000 for a term of three years with no repayments for the first 6 months

  • This is a $40 billion scheme agreed with the Australian Banking Association to commence in early April
  • The Commonwealth will guarantee 50% of this $40 billion loan scheme
  • This measure is in addition to the announcement last week by the Australian Banking Association agreeing to a 6-month loan deferral to support financial pressures felt from the impacts of COVID-19
  • Operators are encouraged to contact their banker urgently to commence discussions around accessing these loans and payment deferral facility.

3. New Wage Subsidies for workers who have lost their jobs or been stood down

  • Households, including casuals and sole traders, will have access to this financial support that will see a doubling of the Job Seeker Allowance (previously New Start payments) to just over $1100 a fortnight
  • The normal asset test and waiting periods will be waived.

4. From Monday 13 July 2020, additional $750 payment for people on income support

  • 5.2 million Australians will be eligible for this payment.

5. Access to Superannuation

  • $10,000 in this current financial year and a further $10,000 in the next financial year can be accessed tax free
  • Casuals and sole traders who can show their hours or their income have decreased by 20% or more are eligible for this benefit
  • This measure will bring $27 billion of superannuation back into the pockets of Australians now.

 

ALL OF THESE MEASURES WILL BE IN PLACE FOR A PERIOD OF 6 MONTHS AND MORE PACKAGES ARE ANTICIPATED TO BE ANNOUNCED.

The National Cabinet is meeting this evening to consider further restrictions and safety measures and VTIC will continue to follow these developments and keep you updated.

– Felicia

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Update #8, Wednesday 18 March 2020

Another week into this unfolding crisis and our industry continues to reel from the impacts of the drastic decisions taken by Government in establishing our national response to COVID-19.

By now we have all received the advice we expected would come, and that is that ATE20 will not proceed in Melbourne this year. This is yet another devastating blow to our industry and its amazing operators that rely on this critical trade show to feed the pipeline with future business from our key international markets.

We know this is not a decision that Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria would have taken lightly, but with the Government’s latest advice today, there was no choice but to cancel. I’d like to commend both our State and Federal tourism agencies for the professional and sensitive manner in which they handled this difficult advice.

With each day bringing new news and new mandatory procedures that systematically continue to shut down our industry, including the closure of our national borders clearly imminent in coming days, I know that many of you across the state are already resorting to drastic measures to try and stay afloat.

I want to use this update to share with you as much information as we have at hand at this stage regarding government responses in attempt to avoid mass redundancies and business closures.

As you would have seen today, the Federal Government has announced a $715 million relief package on fees and taxes charged to our airlines, who have been crushed by the collapse of international travel across the globe. The package has been backdated as well to be effective from Saturday 1 February, returning $160 million to the airlines’ battered bottom lines.

According to our reports we are expecting that, by Sunday, the Federal Government will be announcing further economic measures to support businesses to stay in business and hopefully find a way through this crisis. We are no longer going to hear about ‘stimulus’ packages – these are now ‘survival’ measures designed to minimise the fallout from the global shutdown we are experiencing.

From all reports, while this next response package will be focused on helping business to survive this crisis and keep people employed, there has been acknowledgement that tourism, travel, events and international education are the industries most adversely affected by the current crisis.

Our advocacy as Tourism Industry Councils at the national level continues to push for measures that will ease the immediate cash flow crisis being experienced by businesses. Among the levers we are asking government to pull, we are calling for concessional loans of up to $500,000 that will deliver an immediate injection of cash into struggling businesses; relief on GST and other ATO payments coming due; and wage subsidies that will help businesses in keeping people employed.

At the state level, we continue to engage with government to see a response package like those introduced in other states that have included access to concessional loans, payroll tax concessions and relief on vehicle registrations and other such mechanisms controlled by the states.

VTIC has also been working closely with our Regional Tourism Board partners across the state and we are collaborating to ensure that we deliver consistent and useful information to help our industry navigate the complexities of this new normal we find ourselves operating in.

In terms of immediate information that might prove helpful right now in trying to respond to the changing landscape, the latest advice from the Federal Government on new measures relating to their COVID-19 response outlines some useful advice for your reference and can be found here.

In attempting to manage your business through the impacts of coronavirus, businesses across the country are struggling with their obligations to staff and what options they have in looking to restructure their business.

Your membership with VTIC gives you access to training and education programs available through the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This Friday 20 March there is a FREE webinar being conducted ‘Coronavirus and annualised salaries: what are my options as an employer?‘ providing a timely reminder for you to review what you have in place and, more importantly, be prepared to explore options with confidence. If you’d like to participate in this one-hour free webinar, click here to register.

I know we continue to hear that the current events are ‘unprecedented’ and we’re operating in ‘unchartered waters’. They are indeed over-used expressions, but truly do articulate the dramatic events we are experiencing.

While I wish that we could provide better comfort or more definitive answers to so many crucial questions, I can only assure you that all of us here at VTIC are working hard to ensure your issues, your priorities and your crises are presented to government in the state and federal arenas. There is not a more critical time to be part of your industry association and know that VTIC is here to support you, to advocate for you and to present the single voice that’s needed to drive home our critical messages right now.

– Felicia

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Update #7, Friday 13 March 2020

This morning I participated in a conference call with our Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism, Simon Birmingham. The Minister outlined the broad parameters around the $1 billion tourism package within the announcement yesterday of the $17 billion stimulus package, which I noted in my update #6.

You can review these links for further detail …..
Economic response to the coronavirus
Assistance for severely affected regions

The Business Stimulus package has four key planks –
1. Boosting cash flow for businesses with cash payments of up $25,000, for businesses with turnovers under $50 million, and 50% wage subsides for apprentices and trainees.
2. Delivering support for business investment by enhancing the instant asset write-off (lifting the threshold to $150 million) and a 15-month investment incentive by accelerating depreciation deductions to 50% of the asset cost.
3. $750 stimulus payments to 6.5 million households across Australia.
4. $1 billion allocated to communities and regions most severely affected by the impacts of coronavirus, with a focus on tourism, education and agriculture.

As part of point 4, the Federal Government is committing $1 billion to be spent between now and 30 June 2021, with a focus on allocating as much of the money as possible in the period to 31 December 2020. This fund will be administered by the office of the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Guidelines and eligibility criteria are still a work in progress, with details to be shared as soon as possible. The focus for this allocation, however, will be on supporting those regions and communities that have been hardest hit by impacts of coronavirus.

Within the $1 billion that’s been committed, a waiver has been implemented on the Environmental Management Charge for businesses operating in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and providing relief to tour operators on fees associated to accessing Commonwealth National Parks. There is also assistance to help businesses identify and develop alternate export markets and supply chains as part of our recovery process.

The package includes administrative relief from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) for certain tax obligations for taxpayers affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. This is similar to relief provided following the bushfires. The ATO will set up a temporary shopfront in Cairns within the next few weeks with others to follow in the coming weeks.

The Federal Government will be working with the state industry associations around determining future priorities for how the $1 billion will be applied over the coming 18 months. VTIC will continue to engage in this process to ensure that Victoria’s tourism priorities are well prosecuted in this process.

There was a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting today hosted by the Prime Minister in Sydney with all the State Premiers where they encouraged the states to develop their own stimulus packages for business, with a focus on supporting the most exposed sectors of tourism, education and agriculture.

There are no words left to convey the shock that everyone is feeling right now, but all of us at VTIC are focused on doing everything we can to support the industry through these current challenges to ensure we can emerge in a stronger position.

– Felicia

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Update #6, Thursday 12 March 2020

Today the Prime Minister announced a $17 billion stimulus package, with $1 billion committed to the tourism sector, in response to the impacts of coronavirus.

Please find here the media release that VTIC distributed today and here the full communique released by the Australian Government.

There is vital support available through this package for small businesses who have been struggling under the pressures of coronavirus and its impacts on our industry. Please ensure you get across the support available to assist you in navigating the current challenges.

– Felicia

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Update #5, Friday 28 February 2020

The news we all expected to occur was confirmed yesterday with the Federal Government extending the travel ban on all visitors from mainland China for another week. This decision will be reviewed again ahead of Saturday 7 March.

Recently there have been positive signs of improved containment within China. However, the significant outbreak of the disease in South Korea, Iran and Italy, as well as the first confirmed case in the US has given rise to the Australian Government making preparations should coronavirus be declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, will host a meeting of state Health Ministers in Melbourne on Friday to discuss measures that may need to be implemented if and when the alert rises to pandemic level.

For more detailed information, a copy of the Health Minister’s media conference on COVID-19 is available on the Department of Health website along with the main statement from the Principal Committee.

Containment measures have been largely successful in protecting Australia from the worst of the outbreak. While Australia has only experienced 15 confirmed cases to date, the virus has now killed 2800 people and infected 82,164 worldwide.

Some helpful advice on things you can do in your business in dealing with impacts on COVID-19 is available on the Victorian Chamber website.

News reports note that the advice from Treasury has shifted and they are now considering coronavirus a health crisis with significant economic implications. The Government looks set to target small stimulus measures at specifically affected industries including tourism and travel, education, and agriculture as well as businesses with supply chain issues out of China.

The circumstances we are now confronting as an industry present us with enormous challenges for our future. Our collaboration is now more important than ever, and having a single voice to Government at all levels is vital to ensuring our priorities are heard and respected. VTIC has engaged deeply at both state and federal levels throughout the current crises we face. We’ve heard from our members via the surveys we’ve conducted and, this week, we brought together our policy committees to hear firsthand what you believe is needed to weather the current volatility.

Our Visitor Economy Forum next week takes place at what has now become a critical juncture for our industry. The event this year is over-subscribed with 550 attendees now registered. We’re using this platform to share information, update on the responses from Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria and deliver insights on how best to respond in carving out new directions.

VTIC’s engagement to date has been instrumental to many of the response packages that we’ve seen over the last few weeks. The Industry Councils across the country are represented by the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) and our Executive Director, Simon Westaway, will be at the Forum next week to update on our work federally. Simon has just returned from Canberra where he attended the PM’s latest announcement and met with the offices of relevant federal ministers and opposition ministers to prosecute our position.

As we’ve heard from many, this recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint, and being there for each other through this time will be vital. VTIC will remain at the forefront to represent your priorities and will fight hard to ensure our industry is supported to recover and grow.

– Felicia

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Update #4 Addendum, Friday 21 February 2020

In addendum to my email earlier this week, please click here for the latest advice from the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, regarding the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

– Felicia

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Update #4, Tuesday 18 February 2020

While there is sadly no clear path to the timeline for the ongoing disruption caused by coronavirus on Chinese travel to Australia, I wanted to update you following a conference call that VTIC participated in on Monday 17 February with the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon. Simon Birmingham MP, and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Brendan Murphy.

As we all know by now, late last week, the Federal Government extended the travel ban from mainland China to Australia for another week. This action will be reviewed again ahead of the expiry on Saturday 22 February. The question was asked whether Government might consider a staggered approached to lifting the ban province by province, but it was noted the ban will be lifted in one go when the time is right.

The advice was that Australia must see absolutely solid evidence that the virus epidemic is coming under control in China prior to the travel ban being lifted. There are some positive signs emerging from provinces in areas outside of Hubei, but there is no level of comfort as yet. Under the current set of circumstances, containment is the key measure for protecting Australia’s citizens.

All in all, there was not much positivity about future prospects and certainly no indication of how long this issue will roll on. Industry associations all highlighted the dire impact this is having on operators who rely on the China market and the devastating financial losses being endured across the country.

There was discussion about recovery packages in the vein of what is being delivered for the bushfire crisis. The Minister explained that, as this is not a natural disaster, the same recovery packages cannot be applied. He also noted that tourism is not the only industry suffering under this issue and they need to also consider other export areas including international education, resources, agriculture and fisheries in any recovery activity.

Clearly they are looking at this as a whole of economy issue and any response needs to address wide-sweeping impacts to the financial position of the country’s economic performance. They will need to employ existing structures that can address the overall economic crisis, not sector by sector.

The issue of crisis recovery marketing was discussed, and Tourism Australia noted that despite not understanding how long this crisis will drag on, they are currently in planning mode with all the State Tourism Organisations (STOs), so they are ready to move quickly as soon as the ban is lifted. Certainly, no one is waiting for that to occur to start the planning process.

Tourism Australia is currently focused on joint recovery marketing campaigns with the STOs that will utilise the $20 million allocated for domestic activity (Holiday Here This Year) and the $25 million for dedicated international marketing, under the Federal Government’s $76 million Tourism Bushfire Recovery Package. Throughout this period, they are continuing to spend money in appropriate overseas markets to ensure interest is maintained for the destination.

With regard to bushfire recovery, VTIC distributed information yesterday to eligible businesses on the State and Federal Government’s respective announcements of their Regional Events Funds under their Bushfire Recovery Marketing programs. In case you missed it, here are the links for details and the application processes for the Victorian Regional Events Fund and the Australian Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants.

Tourism Australia is working closely with Visit Victoria on the implementation of its Holiday Here This Year campaign and Visit Victoria continues to roll out its state-based activity around A Short Stay Goes a Long Way.

Both Pip Harrison and Brendan McClements will be joining us at the Visitor Economy Forum on Tuesday 3 March to outline the recovery marketing plans for their respective organisations and to provide us with an understanding of how they will be supporting the industry as we look to move forward from the current crises confronting us.

The event is now sold out, which is great testament to the industry’s need to come together at this incredibly difficult time. We are looking forward to seeing 550 of you in attendance on the day to share insights, support each other when we need it most and to shape what a new future might look like post these disasters.

– Felicia

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Update #3, Monday 3 February 2020

Further to our advice over the weekend, we are requesting your input via a member survey* on the business implications of the coronavirus and international travel restrictions.

On Monday 27 January 2020 the Chinese Government halted outbound organised group travel from China as a result of the coronavirus. The Chinese Government then advised independent Chinese travellers against non-essential travel.

On Saturday 1 February the Australian Government imposed restrictions on travellers from (or through) China visiting Australia. This decision is to be reviewed in 14 days.

By completing this survey, VTIC will have strong evidence of how this health crisis is affecting our industry. Across Australia the Tourism Industry Councils are undertaking the same survey to gather this information at both a state and national level, for state and federal advocacy.

Your time taken to complete this survey is greatly appreciated and we would encourage you to please complete this survey even if you are not experiencing any impact.

– Felicia

* Please note this survey has now closed.

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Update #2, Saturday 1 February 2020

Further to our advice on Friday afternoon, I’m updating you on advice that has just been received from the Prime Minister’s office. You can read the statement from the Prime Minister here and the joint media release from Government here.

Key highlights are outlined below:

  • Travel Advisory – do not travel to China

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to now increase travel advisory to Level 4 – do not travel to all of mainland China.

  • All travellers arriving out of China to self-isolate for 14 days

As of today, all travellers arriving out of mainland China (not just Hubei province) be asked to self-isolate for a period of 14 days from the time they leave mainland China.

  • Border Measures – to deny entry to Australia to people who have left or transited through China, with some exceptions

To substantially reduce the volume of travellers coming from mainland China, AHHPC recommends additional border measures be implemented to deny entry to Australia to people who have left or transited through mainland China from Saturday 1 February, with the exception of Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family and air crews who have been using appropriate personal protective equipment. This applies also to passengers transiting in Australia, unless they are Australian citizens, permanent residents or their immediate families.

In addition, Qantas has now suspended all flights between Australia and China effective from Sunday 9 February through to Sunday 29 March.

We are staying in contact with the Federal Minister’s office and will continue to update you on information as and when received.

VTIC will be undertaking another member survey on the business implications of this latest crisis. I would please urge you to complete this survey so VTIC can have strong evidence of how this health crisis is affecting our performance as we are being asked in Federal forums for details on business implications for industry.

Your input was invaluable during the bushfire crisis and aided us tremendously in our advocacy efforts. Your input here will be equally crucial in our representation of your interests.

– Felicia

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Update #1, Friday 31 January 2020

Following on from my Chief Executive’s update yesterday, we’ve received further advice overnight that may be useful for our operators.

According to Tourism Australia’s most recent information, the latest development with the greatest potential impact to the Australian tourism sector is the decision by a number of international airlines to suspend or reduce flights to and from mainland China. Airlines are attributing their decision to reduced market demand, and also to calls by some countries (including China) to avoid ‘non-essential’ travel to and from the country.

There are now close to 8,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across 17 countries (Japan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, USA, Canada, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates and Finland). Of the confirmed cases, 89 are outside China. The global death toll continues to rise and now stands at 170 (all in China).

Confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to rise in China
As at 29 January, the World Health Organisation reports China has 5,997 confirmed and 9,239 suspected cases of coronavirus. Of these 1,239 have been classified as severe.

Yesterday, British Airways suspended all flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai with immediate effect until Friday 31 January and suspended all bookings until Saturday 29 February citing the travel advice of the British foreign office. Many others have followed suit with flight reductions or reduced service through February and some into March. Qantas and Singapore airlines flights to and from mainland China remain unchanged at this point in time.

Many of our members have contacted us about help in supporting their staff through this crisis and what should be done to protect them. Last night, we received an email from the Chief Medical Officer in the Australian Government’s Department of Health which provides some useful information with regard to staff precautions. You can read his letter here.

This afternoon we received further information from the Department of Health for hotels and hotel staff and hotel guests.

For Workplace Relations queries relating to your employees please contact the Workplace Relations Advice Line on (03) 8662 5222.

VTIC will continue to liaise with Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria on their responses and advice during this crisis and we will update you as information comes to hand. For more information about the virus and government response activities please refer to the Department of Health website.

– Felicia

Felicia Mariani

About the Author

Felicia Mariani

Felicia brings to VTIC extensive experience across the public, private and Not-For-Profit sectors, most recently leading The Good Food Foundation and Jamie’s Ministry of Food. Felicia has previously been in executive and senior management roles at Tourism Victoria, Managing Director of the Australian Tourism Export Council and former CEO of Tourism Tasmania.

Events

june

02jun6:00 pm8:00 pmSpotlight on a Member with Chateau Yering Hotel in the Yarra Valley6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Chateau Yering Hotel

july

01jul6:00 pm8:00 pmSave the Date - Spotlight on a Member with Australian Sports Museum6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

august

12augallday13allday2020 Victorian Tourism Conference(All Day) RACV City Club

september

02sep6:00 pm8:00 pmSave the Date - Spotlight on a Member with Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq

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