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

07 /07/ 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, Monday 7 July 2020

Today Premier Daniel Andrews announced a return to stage three restrictions for the next six weeks for all metropolitan Melbourne Local Government areas and Mitchell Shire, from 11.59pm Wednesday 8 July.

In order to gain further clarity for its members, VTIC has been able to secure a Summary of Restrictions – Return to Stage 3 to guide you in determining what operations need to cease and what can be maintained across Greater Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Click Here to view the summary document.

We will continue to liaise directly with State Government over the next 24 hours on the wider impacts of these restrictions on our industry and will provide you with a detailed update once we have further advice from the department.

– Felicia

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Update, Friday 3 July 2020

This week has been yet another week of disappointment and confusion for our industry with the Premier’s announcement that 36 suburbs in 10 outer Melbourne postcodes would have Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions reinstated due to a spike in COVID-19 infections in these hotspots.

Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions now apply to the following postcodes:
3012, 3021, 3032, 3038, 3042, 3046, 3047, 3055, 3060 and 3064.
Further details on these restrictions is on the DHHS website.

In his press conference today, the Premier noted there are 66 new cases today, following yesterday’s total of 77. While these numbers remain worrying, the Victorian Chief Health Officer has taken some comfort from the stability in numbers of new cases, as opposed to a doubling and doubling again scenario; despite the increased levels of testing currently in train.

$5 million support fund for accommodation cancellations
The shock announcement by the Premier on Tuesday 30 June, threw a massive disruption to yet another school holiday period in Victoria – a period where many of you were reporting some healthy bookings from guests through to the end of July. This was beginning to look like the start of what might be some light at the end of what’s been a very long and dark tunnel for our industry.

That enthusiasm was unfortunately short-lived, and the last 48 hours, many members have been trying to identify bookings made from guests in restricted postcodes and commencing the process of cancelling stays across the state.

The State Government announcement yesterday of a $5 million support fund for accommodation providers to help in covering the costs of these cancellations was a welcome acknowledgement of the never-ending pressures on our sector’s pathway to recovery.

Government is making available a maximum of $225 per booking per night to provide some relief to the cost of confirmed bookings that now need to be cancelled for guests residing in the ten restricted postcodes.

Business Victoria outlines further details of the program on their website, where operators can also register for reimbursement.

VTIC has been working with the Department to assist in establishing Guidelines for Eligibility under the program, which will be available on Monday 13 July.

Applications for reimbursement will be open from 13 July to 7 Aug. Compensation will apply to bookings made before 3pm on Tuesday 30 June 2020 for the period of travel between 11.59 pm on Wednesday 1 July 2020 and 11.59 pm on Wednesday 29 July 2020.

Please see the media release here that was distributed by VTIC yesterday following the announcement.

I know there have been some issues with the ability to identify postcodes from bookings that are derived from third party distribution channels like booking.com, Expedia, Trivago, wotif.com, etc.

Through our engagement with Expedia, we were able to identify a means by which we might simplify the process of identifying postcodes for cancellations on any of their stable of distribution channels.

Our advice from Expedia is:
Once the hotel is contacted by Expedia regarding a cancellation, you can use the Message Central on our PartnerCentral tool to ask the guest where they booked. The great thing about this tool is that you can set-up a template so that they don’t have the re-type the same question(s) again and again.

If you wish them to, you can also ask for a proof of address (phone bill, driver’s license, etc.) and the guest can reply via an email and attach documents.

Hopefully this will help you make contact with potential guests that require cancellation due to being located in a restricted postcode.

VTIC’s Visitor Economy Recovery Submission to Government
In light of ongoing pressures on our industry as a result of not just the current impacts of Coronavirus, but the residual impacts from the January bushfires, the Board of VTIC formed a Visitor Economy Recovery Taskforce. The Taskforce recently produced a submission, making recommendations on what steps were needed to set the industry on a pathway to recovery.

The document was a collaboration of insights delivered via our six Policy Committees, as well as from a collection of industry leaders who formed the Recovery Taskforce.

The elements of the submission were considered across six key themes covering off demand and supply, including – Marketing and Events in the demand arena; and the supply issues of Industry Strengthening, Product Strengthening and Aviation, Data and Insights, and Collaboration.

You can see a full version of the submission here.

– Felicia

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Update, Friday 26 June 2020

Through this week, I’ve lost count of the conversations that I’ve had with so many of you around the confusion and disappointment that followed the Premier’s announcement on Saturday afternoon that restrictions would not be easing further from Monday 22 June – as we had all hoped.

Many of you had stocked up on supplies, you’d called back staff and were in full gear to activate to 50 patrons from Monday – and just in time for the all-important June school holidays.

That excitement was extinguished quickly last weekend and the subsequent days threw up much confusion about the ability to travel in Victoria and a real lack of clarity around how we were to interpret these latest instructions.

The 20-patron maximum will now remain in place until Sunday 12 July, when the Premier will deliver further advice on future easing of restrictions. I know this puts enormous pressure on many of you as you needed that cap to increase to 50 to create more viable operating models.

We’ve listened carefully to all your concerns, and we’ve been engaging almost daily with colleagues in various government agencies to seek some clarity for the industry in navigating restrictions and the public messaging for those looking to travel.
ON THE NATIONAL FRONT
Prime Minister’s update today following National Cabinet in Canberra 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison conducted another press conference today following the meeting of National Cabinet where he said all states agreed to stick to the 3-step plan that was introduced some weeks back. The PM outlined some promising adjustments to restrictions, following advice from his Medical Expert Panel.

Smaller venues may now be able to operate on 2 square metres per person
It was agreed today by National Cabinet that we can move to mass adoption of the two-square metre rule for smaller premises. The definition of ‘smaller premises’ will be determined by individual jurisdictions but, as a rule of thumb, that would be a premise of around 100 square metres.

The AHPPC has considered the move, but it will be up to individual state jurisdictions to choose when and how they activate this new rule. Given the current situation in Victoria, however, it’s unlikely we will see any adoption of this rule before the 12 July date that our Premier has set for the next announcement of any easing of restrictions in Victoria.

AHPPC has been asked to consider a roadmap for how the events and entertainment industry might find a way to reactive quickly and safely. 
The Prime Minister said that it would be up to each state, but he hoped that people could return to attending events sooner rather than later. The key focus of expert advisors has been on the ability to know who’s attending these events, who they have been in contact with, and how social distancing measures are being adhered to.

The CMO noted that ticketed events would be preferable to mass gatherings without seats. Festivals where people crowd together in an uncontrolled fashion are deemed as far riskier and will probably not occur until much further down the track.

When can international students return to campus?
The PM noted that they are working with several states and territories on this issue to formulate a plan.

He’s adamant, however, that this will not happen before Australian students are back at universities across the country. The borders of the states where those campuses are located also need to open first.

On international travel generally
The PM was clear that outside of the NZ travel bubble, international borders will likely remain closed for the foreseeable future. This is of course disappointing as so many of our industry are heavily reliant on inbound tourism and is all the more reason that an extension of the Federal JobKeeper Program is so vital.

Federal Government’s JobKeeper Program 
With the impending ceasing of the JobKeeper Program in September, we’ve heard from so many of you that an extension of JobKeeper is vital to sustaining your businesses beyond the deadline.

Through our national association, the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), we have been engaging extensively with Canberra on this issue. Through our ATIC Executive Director, meetings have taken place with the offices of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister.

The Federal Government is giving serious consideration as to how any extension of JobKeeper might be facilitated. Still, there is a clear understanding of the fragile situation being faced by the tourism, hospitality and events sectors as part of this.

The position we are prosecuting at a national level is that we are seeking a six-month extension; but that may need to be longer depending on when international borders might reopen, given the reliance of so many segments of our industry on inbound tourism.

Again, we will keep you apprised of developments in this space.

$250 million Coronavirus Relief Package for the Arts Industry 
Yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison of a $250 million coronavirus rescue package for Australia’s ailing arts sector was long overdue and finally gives them access to grants and loans that will assist the sector in weathering the COVID-19 crisis.

Guidelines for how the grants and loans will be administered are due to be released shortly, but an allocation of $75 million in competitive grants, of amounts between $75,000 and $2 million, will be made available to provide capital funding for new festivals, concerts, tours and events.

The package also includes $90 million in concessional loans to help fund new productions, $50 million to help film and television producers secure financing and restart productions, and $35 million in direct assistance to Commonwealth-funded organisations who are struggling to stay viable.

Please see our media release welcoming this announcement here.

HERE IN VICTORIA
The Victorian Government has today announced 4,800 thermal temperature testing devices for key regional tourism centres across the state.  

On-site temperature testing with infrared thermometers will occur to protect and support travellers and accommodation operators across Victoria as we head into school holidays.

About 4,800 thermometer devices will be delivered to holiday locations as part of the government’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus. As well, coronavirus testing clinics will be set up in popular destinations on the Great Ocean Road and in the Alpine region, including at Lorne, Apollo Bay, Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Mount Buller.

Accommodation providers with communal facilities who will be expecting an increase in school holiday visitation, including caravan parks, will be given priority access to these thermometers.

I know this will come as welcome relief to many of you who have been very concerned about how to manage issues around whether to accept visitors from some areas of the state. This move will undoubtedly help in supporting some of these decisions.

Please find the Premier’s media release here.

Testing Blitz in Hot Spot Areas
Premier Daniel Andrews held another press conference yesterday where he outlined the government’s plans to undertake a testing blitz across the 10 LGAs that have been identified as coronavirus hot spots in outer Melbourne.

They will commence with a blitz in Broadmeadows and Keilor Downs with a view to testing 50 per cent of residents over three days. Over the next seven days, they will then follow on to the other seven LGA hot spots identified, looking to achieve 50 per cent testing in these areas over 10-days.

There has been no travel restriction placed on these locations, other than to request if people feel unwell, they should stay home. There is also no mandate that our tourism operations across the state should decline to accept bookings from people travelling from these areas.

You should indeed enquire to ensure that no one in a travel party is unwell, but there is nothing in place that directs you to take any further action or to reject their plans to visit you.

Visitor Economy Recovery Taskforce
These have been some of the most challenging times that our industry has faced in living memory, and we know that the road to our recovery will be long and slow. There will be many challenges that we still need to face as we work our way through this, and VTIC is ensuring that government has a clear view of what the industry feels is needed to set us on a pathway for growth.

To that end, VTIC has formed a Visitor Economy Recovery Taskforce to assist us in developing a submission to government outlining a roadmap that can drive our resurgence as a major contributor to the state’s economic fortunes.

The key themes of the submission span both demand and supply requirements, covering Marketing, Events, Industry Strengthening, Product Strengthening and Aviation, Data and Insights and Collaboration.

Our submission will be delivered today, and VTIC will continue to engage with government as we prosecute the needs of the industry to shape and support our recovery.

Industry Guidelines for COVID-19
In our extensive engagement, we’ve also shared feedback that you’ve provided to us regarding gaps in the Tourism Industry Guidelines for COVID-19 that were introduced on 1 June. Your comments have been highly regarded and resulted in updates to key elements of the guidelines; this includes, but is not limited to:

  • Bedding and cleaning requirements
  • Tour and transport activities
  • Activity providers

You can find the full version of the revised guidelines here.

We understand that there are still many concerns for industry within these Guidelines. In particular, we are seeking clarity on the maximum number of patrons allowed as part of tour operations. At the moment, the guidelines note that there is a 10-person maximum for tour and transport groups, which is out of step with the 20-person maximum for other tourism operations. We are currently seeking urgent clarity on this point and will update you further as soon as we can.

If you do have specific questions on the guidelines and need assistance in applying them to your business, please call Business Victoria on 13 22 15.

New School Camp Guidelines introduced today 
In addition to the revised Tourism Industry Guidelines for COVID-19, today the Victorian Department of Education and Training released guidance for camp operators and school groups to operate in a COVID-safe environment. The link below highlights advice around:

  • Guidance for Providers and School Groups fact sheet
  • Health and safety advice for return to on-site schooling in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • The Department’s Excursions policy (including camps and related adventure activities) which schools are required to follow
    • Please note schools are still only allowed to attend camps and related adventure activities at this stage
  • Principles and advice for accommodation providers from Business Victoria.

You can find the full detail in the link here.

Victorian Ski Season COVID-19 Information
For operators in our ski fields, in addition to the Tourism Guidelines, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has issued COVID-19 information for the Victorian Ski Season.

Free COVID Clean module through Quality Tourism Framework
Through our recent survey on the challenges that you’ve faced in reopening your businesses from 1 June, just over 50 per cent of you told us your biggest concern was ensuring the safety of your customers in the new COVID-safe world.

We know these new operating requirements can be confusing and create additional concerns in looking after your customers. As part of the national Quality Tourism Framework, the new COVID Clean module can help tourism businesses in navigating these requirements and provides core base-practices that businesses can employ in operating safely in the current environment.

Based on the Safe Work Australia guidelines, the COVID Clean module covers the steps businesses should be taking to provide a hygienic environment for staff and visitors, including :

  • Training staff on the new health and safety procedures specific to your operation
  • Creating cleaning policies, procedures and checklists tailored to your business
  • Creating a COVID-19 Risk Register
  • Signage and workplace posters to promote best hygiene practices to customers
  • COVID Clean Practicing Business logo to use which will provide customers with a greater sense of confidence.

As part of the COVID Clean module and eligibility to use the logo, businesses who are not currently accredited must also complete Level One accreditation which is free to the end of the current calendar year.

You can register for the COVID Clean module here.

VTIC Insights Series on Tuesday 30 June 
Don’t forget to register to join us next Tuesday 30 June for another Insight Series session with the Hon. Martin Pakula MP; Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events and Minister for the Coordination of Jobs, Precincts and Regions: COVID-19.

We’re thrilled that Minister Pakula can join us for this very special session where he’ll share what the State Government has done to support the sector through the current crisis, and measures being focused on right now to ensure the revival and ultimate thriving of our industry.

We also look forward to having Brendan McClements, CEO of Visit Victoria, join us once again to provide an update on the developing domestic campaign for Victoria, which will follow the Minister’s session with us.

If you haven’t done so already, you can register here.

In closing
There’s been much territory to cover in this update with everything that’s transpired over this past week. The months ahead will be paved with new challenges we will need to face, and VTIC will be there with you on every step of this journey.

Now more than ever, a strong and unified single voice to government is critical to ensure the unique priorities of the tourism industry are a centrepiece on their agenda.

We are an industry that has contributed over $32 billion to Victoria’s economy. We employed over 230,000 people in our sector, with nearly 90,000 employed in our regional areas. This is an industry that must be invested in to drive the state’s recovery, and VTIC is committed to ensuring we take this message forward on your behalf.

– Felicia

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Update, Saturday 20 June 2020

This afternoon, Premier Daniel Andrews announced several changes as a result of increased case numbers and advice from medical experts.

Today we were informed that the rise in cases is largely driven by family get-togethers where advice around distancing and hygiene have not been followed. Since the end of April, approximately half of our cases have come from transmission inside homes.

Therefore, from 11:59pm this Sunday 21 June, updates include:
• The number of visitors you can have at your home will reduce to five
• Outside the home, families and friends can meet in groups up to 10
• Restaurants, pubs, community halls, museums, cinemas, theatres etc will be capped at 20 people in one space until 12 July and the four square metre rule remains in place
VTIC has received further advice from our government contacts relating to the accommodation sector and VTIC will be engaging further with them on these measures through the coming week.

Details include:

Overnight stays
• Overnight stays permitted in private residences, subject to private gathering limits
• Overnight stays permitted in tourist accommodation, subject to group booking limit of 20
Accommodation facilities including caravan parks, camping groups, hostels etc
• Booking limit of 20 people
• Communal facilities can open as per advice last week
• School camps will be allowed to open as per advice last week
• Exemptions relating to use of accommodation where place of residence, for emergency purposes etc
• Screening and safeguards will be required at staffed caravan parks and camping grounds
• Cannot attend if ill or someone from home is ill
Ski accommodation
• If accommodation has communal facilities, then a maximum of 20 people total permitted to stay
• Bedrooms cannot be shared between people who are not part of the same group and, if shared outside of usual household members in a single group booking, are subject to four square metre density quotient
• If lodges take bookings for multiple groups, density quotient for shared indoor living areas (e.g. dining, lounge, games rooms) to defined patron limit
• Screening and safeguards required for all patrons
• Cannot attend if ill or someone from home is ill
Today’s announcement is incredibly disappointing for all of us, particularly as I know many of you have worked tirelessly to comply with obligations to provide a COVID-clean and safe environment for your visitors.

VTIC undertook a survey recently to form an understanding of what businesses have been experiencing in reopening from 1 June. We had a great response and a big thank you to those who shared your insights with us. This intel will help us in shaping our future initiatives and has proven invaluable in informing our conversations with Government.

We received over 200 responses to this survey and I wanted to share with you some of the key insights from across the membership:
• 87% of respondents indicated they had partially or fully ceased operations due to COVID-19 since restrictions were put into place
• 46% of these businesses reopened on the week commencing 1 June, when some restrictions eased, with another 21% only partially reopening
• Of the 33% of businesses that did not reopen on 1 June:
o 50% claimed they were allowed, but chose not to
o 31% were still not allowed to resume operations
o 19% were still unsure whether they could reopen
We were pleased to see many businesses returning to their activities, but these figures indicated these important matters for us:
• Of the 50% of businesses that did not reopen, even though they could:
o 37% indicated that it was not financially viable
o 33% claimed they were unable to reopen because of distance and space restrictions
VTIC is committed to making sure we can get as many tourism businesses to reopen as quickly as possible under the current circumstances. Setbacks like today continue to make this challenge unbearable for us and our industry simply cannot weather these continued disappointments.

VTIC remains committed to driving the industry’s messages to government and presenting the unified voice of our sector in their considerations. Our industry has had to contend with unbelievable upheaval over the past six months and putting your needs in priority position as government moves to recovery mode, is our commitment to you.

If you are having issues in trying to come to grips with the requirements of restrictions at the moment and how they might apply to your business, we encourage you to contact the Business Victoria Hotline on 13 22 15.

– Felicia

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Update, Friday 12 June 2020

Following another meeting today of the National Cabinet, Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined in his media briefing additional considerations that will further establish our industry’s road to recovery.

The Prime Minister outlined that our progress as a nation has been positive in containing coronavirus, which allows for further considerations to be made on the scale and pace in moving to step three of the national plan.

He noted that National Cabinet would be forming six sub-committees that will have an immediate focus on a jobs agenda to get Australians back to work and the economy back on track. The six sub-committees to drive forward this agenda will be on – Rural and Regional; Skills; Infrastructure and Transport; Population and Migration; Energy; and Health.

He also announced further developments in the Federal Government’s ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy, with new targets being set, for the first time, in collaboration with First Nations people.

It was pleasing to hear that National Cabinet has reaffirmed its commitment to the three-step process announced at the commencement of restrictions being eased across the country. The process pursues a policy of suppression rather than eradication. It’s expected outbreaks will occur, but measures are in place to contact trace and contain those occurrences, and the Prime Minister sees no reason why this should inhibit our move to step three.

Step three is scheduled for July, and today’s announcement included an important update, being the removal of the cap of 100 patrons at indoor gatherings and replacing it with the density quotient of one person per four square metres. So, businesses will be able to accommodate as many patrons as they can within their premises, so long as they can adhere to the four square metres per person and 1.5-metre distancing rules.

The Prime Minister also announced that outdoor venues and cultural events and festivals with a 40,000 person or less capacity can resume welcoming patrons back in step three. The venue or event must be ticketed and seated, and there is a maximum limit of 25 per cent of capacity. Physical distancing requirements must be maintained at all times.

For venues with over 40,000 capacity, there is still much work to do in this area, and these venues are not included in the current consideration of step three restriction easing. Nightclubs are also excluded from consideration. Given the international experiences so far, it will be some time before these operations will be safe to resume.

The Prime Minister made mention that the Federal Government is working with state and territory governments to introduce a pilot program for welcoming back international students. This must be in a controlled setting, and will be via pre-approved plans with the institutions. This program will be a point of ongoing work, but it is great to see this is on the agenda. The Prime Minister did note, however, that if states and territories want international students back, they also need to consider then the opening of their borders to Australians.

While today’s announcement is very much welcomed, in particular for our events sector, ultimately easing of restrictions is determined by each state’s Premier.

VTIC continues to engage deeply with the relevant departments of government to keep the issues of our tourism and events sector prominent in their policy formation. Of major concern is the viability of the four square metre rule and the need for urgent review, as they’ve done in WA, to reduce that to two square metres per person. This has been a crucial point raised by our members in the recent survey we conducted that’s affecting the ability to either open, or to operate with a reasonable return.

With these new instructions, the perspective by which Victoria chooses to interpret and implement these considerations becomes ever more critical for our industry. We will continue to advocate hard for you in these forums and we look forward to any upcoming announcements by Premier Daniel Andrews on how Victoria will evolve its approach to make sure we do not fall behind the progress of other states.

– Felicia

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Update, Monday 1 June 2020

Today restaurants, cafes and some parts of the tourism industry finally reopen after two long months. Although it will not be business as usual, with restrictions in place and a virus still to combat, the gradual reopening brings some relief to our industry.

Tourism Industry Guidelines

Overnight, the Victorian Government released the Tourism Industry Guidelines for COVID-19. Please ensure that you and all your staff members are across these guidelines as you prepare to reopen. You will find here instructions on requirements, along with factsheets, templates and checklists to guide you through the process.

Since the Premier’s last announcement on the easing of restrictions beginning today, tourism operators have had many questions about their eligibility to reopen. VTIC has been feeding all queries to the Victorian Government, and as a result, a FAQs page has been created to answer your questions.

We do realise that there are still many sectors of our industry that are not able to resume operations. VTIC is actively engaging with various departments of government as we look to aid in informing the reanimation of these parts of our industry that are still in question. Please continue to refer to this page for further information and updates. VTIC will also continue to communicate directly with our members as further announcements are made.

Hospitality Industry Guidelines & Training

Businesses should also refer to the Hospitality Industry Guidelines for COVID-19 as this will apply to many sectors and areas of our industry as they look to activate in the coming days.

The Victorian Government requires businesses to also complete the coronavirus (COVID-19) free online training, which is available from today.

The Government expects that:

  • at least one staff member at every venue will have completed the training;
  • all staff should make themselves familiar with Government’s guidelines; and
  • posters are displayed at the venue confirming that staff have reviewed the guidelines and have completed the training as required.

Click here to access the training. 

Attractions with a retail outlet, restaurant or café 

Retail outlets, restaurants and cafes may reopen; however, there are three special requirements for businesses in Victoria that have customers on its premises:

  • You must measure your publicly available floorspace in each separate space and identify the maximum number of customers allowed in that space. For example, if your shop is 2 metres wide and 8 metres deep, its floorspace would allow a maximum of 4 customers inside at one time (2 x 8 = 16m2, divided by 4 m2 per person = 4 customers).
  • You must place a sign at the entrance/s to your premises indicating the maximum capacity of your shop and ensure no more than this number of customers are in your premises at any one time.
  • You must initiate a cleaning regime that ensures:
    • frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, touch screens, handrails and benchtops are cleaned and disinfected at least twice per day
    • all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected when visibly soiled
    • all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected immediately if there is spillage.

Wineries, Breweries and Distilleries

For wineries, breweries and distilleries with a restaurant or café, they will be able to sell alcohol by the bottle and glass, or sell a tasting experience, if served with a seated meal.

In addition, you can sell full bottles from your cellar door for consumption away from the premise. As part of the sales process, where the liquor licence permits it, a cellar door may also choose to offer free samples of its products to a seated customer to help the customer decide what to buy – but you will not be able to sell a tasting or wine by the glass, unless it is accompanied by a meal.

Tours & Transport

Tours are also allowed to restart as of today (1 June) but should take no more than 20 people.

Operators are required to support customers to take reasonable steps to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from all other persons. Operators should also consider what will be an appropriately sized group for their tour vehicle to support safe physical distancing by tour participants from different households during the tour.

Winery tours should comply with requirements that apply to cellar doors at wineries.

Many tourism operators provide transport to their customers as part of their service, including the provision of hire vehicles, airport transfers and marine-based activity tours. A transport service must be provided in a manner that minimises the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) to staff and customers. Please refer to the Tourism Industry Guidelines and Resources for further information.

Cultural Institutions
Melbourne’s major cultural institutions will welcome back Victorians in time for the winter school holidays.

The National Gallery of Victoria, the Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks, State Library Victoria and parts of Arts Centre Melbourne will officially reopen to the public on Saturday 27 June.

While some entertainment and cultural venues can open under strict conditions today – these key public institutions will take further time to ensure that their facilities are ready to safely welcome back the community.

If you have any further questions on your ability or requirements to operate, you can refer to the Department Health & Human Services website or you can call their hotline on 1800 675 398.

– Felicia

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Update, Sunday 24 May 2020

Finally, we have the news we’ve been waiting for…
Easing of restrictions heralds the re-opening of our sector

This morning Premier Daniel Andrews provided an update on the re-opening of our state’s accommodation and attractions from 1 June, along with confirmation that Victoria will be able to have its vital ski season from 22 June.  Plus, with Victoria not ever having had any border closures, it means we can also welcome interstate visitors to our state.

VTIC has been working very closely with various departments of government over the past week since the announcement of hospitality being able to commence operations from 1 June to secure certainty for other parts of our industry.  So, today’s announcement was a welcomed step forward.

The Premier stressed that easing these restrictions can occur as a result of the extensive testing the state has undertaken, with 174,000 tests completed since 11 May and 420,000 tests overall.  If Victoria was a country, we would be sixth in the world for testing.  This result, coupled with the low rate of transmissions in Victoria, provides government with further options to implement changes based on this data.

While the Premier announced reactivation of the tourism sector, it will require operators to comply with strict rules that address density, distancing and hygiene.  Our indoor attractions will need to subscribe to the 20 patrons maximum per enclosed space rule within their venue.  Density quotients will be based on 1 person per 4 square metres of space, which means you would need 80 square meters per enclosed space to accommodate the maximum of 20 patrons in that specific area.

Government is considering how these rules are interpreted for our outdoor venues, which means they’ve heard our position that outdoor attractions cannot be subject to the same density rules as indoor venues.

It’s also important to note here that, for our accommodation providers, including campgrounds and caravan parks, communal facilities like shared kitchens or bathrooms cannot be used at this stage.

The Premier pointed out that definitive guidelines have been developed and government will be liaising with industry groups to ensure these protocols are understood and implemented properly.  VTIC is already in dialogue with government departments on these guidelines and will be working closely with them over the next couple days to keep you informed and prepared.

For further details read the Premier’s Statement from today.

For further details on Victoria’s restriction levels from 1 June visit >> Department of Health and Human Services

To make sure our industry understands its obligations and is best prepared to operate in this new COVID-safe world, VTIC has developed a set of protocols that the industry can follow to ensure you are undertaking the best measures to prepare your business.

Following the Premier’s announcement today, we will work with government officials this week to understand their proposed guidelines and include any new procedures into the protocols we’ll be sharing with you.

The announcement today is a wonderful first step for our state, but it still leaves many parts of our industry without answers about their future reactivation.  In particular, the events sector and tour and transport sector have not been addressed in any of these latest instructions.

VTIC will continue to engage with government on these critical sectors to our industry and seek some guidance on how and when theses specific issues will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

– Felicia

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Update, Sunday 17 May 2020

We have a pathway to reactivation for Victoria

Today’s announcement by Premier Daniel Andrews outlining a timeline to commence reactivation of our hospitality industry was a welcomed nod to a pathway out of the mandatory hibernation we’ve had to embrace. See the VTIC Statement released today following the announcement. 

From Monday 1 June, our cafes, restaurants and the dining areas of pubs and clubs will be able to welcome 20 patrons per enclosed space on their premises. From Monday 22 June, that will increase to 50 patrons, with a hope that by mid-July we can move to 100 patrons per single enclosed space.

From information published on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website, a ‘single space’ is defined as an undivided space of a restaurant or cafe premises. Venues with multiple divided spaces can have up to 20 patrons in each space as long as they comply with density requirements, and there are careful controls in place for shared spaces, e.g. foyers and bathrooms. More information will be provided in the guidelines on Monday 25 May.

Information on the DHHS website also forecasts that further announcements are expected later in May regarding the timeline for reactivating other parts of our industry. We know all segments of our visitor economy across the state are equally anxious to have some idea of when they can invite guests back to their businesses.

This announcement is a big shift to the message the Premier delivered last Monday, which saw no defined path for the reopening of hospitality venues in Victoria. This easing of restrictions is a direct result of the low number of cases that have been identified by the recent testing blitz across the state.

This planned progression will be contingent on the rules being followed by businesses and the general public alike and advice of the Chief Health Officer of Victoria on any implications of these new relaxed measures to the community.

Since the Premier’s initial announcement last week, VTIC has been actively engaging with government, ensuring the industry can use the coming three to four weeks to be well-prepared to comply with any new operating procedures to be CovidSafe.

We also used our appearance at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) hearing on Thursday to drive home the importance of supporting the industry to navigate this next complex phase of our reanimation.

I want to thank all of you who provided detail on the impact that COVID-19 has had on your business operations. We had nearly 370 members respond to our recent member survey, and your intel provided invaluable insight that VTIC was able to use in its evidence to the Committee. The statistics have strongly supported our advocacy efforts over the past week. Here’s an article that appeared in The Age this weekend highlighting our survey data.

With further guidelines set to be released on Monday 25 May, VTIC will be working closely with government to ensure we can provide industry with a clear understanding of what you’ll need to do to comply with requirements and obligations, and provide enough time to implement any new procedures.

In the interim, we had previously published information released by the Australian Government that will be a useful guide in preparing your reopening procedures. The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has developed the My business’s COVIDSafe plan creating a handy toolkit to get you underway.

These announcements today are small steps, but it gives us much-needed hope that a pathway to our recovery is underway.

VTIC will remain in close dialogue with government to ensure that we’re providing you with crucial information to plan and prepare for how we will operate in the new normal that’s unfolding for us. Staying in lockstep will be vital to ensure that, as an industry, we comply with all requirements and keep us on a forward track for our progression.

– Felicia

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Update, Monday 11 May 2020

Step 1 easing of restrictions for Victoria

As expected, today at 11am Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the Victorian Government will gradually ease restrictions for Victorians. Further to the Prime Minister’s update on Friday, the Premier has adapted elements of the National Cabinet’s Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia. As the Prime Minister explained, each state and territory government is responsible for setting its own timetable for the plan, based on its local circumstances. Throughout this morning’s conference, the Premier clearly stated that Victoria’s easing of restrictions will be “cautious, safe and appropriate”.

I know this has been a disappointing announcement for our industry as we were all hoping for more certainty about how we might navigate our way out of this crisis. With any further easing of restrictions on hold now until the end of May, this presents an incredibly challenging environment for an industry that has been under stress for the last five months, not just the past eight weeks.

In the media we’ve done today, we’ve stressed the need to use this time to engage with industry over the coming weeks to ensure we have a manageable and appropriate timeline for how we will reanimate various aspects of our industry as we work through this process.

The visitor economy is a highly diverse collection of industry sectors that operates in all shapes and sizes across the state. A one-size-fits-all approach to easing restrictions will see enormous inequity across the board at a time when the industry needs hope and certainty about its future.

At the moment, the guidelines will see a relaxation of restrictions that will allow Victorians to host up to five visitors in their homes, and to meet outdoors in groups of 10 from 11.59pm tomorrow, Tuesday 12 May.

The Premier is also encouraging businesses to continue working from home where possible until the end of May.

It was confirmed that Victorians can resume outdoor recreational activities such as surfing, boating, fishing and hiking, and some of our much-loved national parks and reserves will be opening across the state. However, camping and overnight stays remain off the agenda in Victoria.

Restrictions continue for restaurants and cafes, still only able to offer takeaway. In consultation with industry, the Premier said that for many restaurants and cafés, limiting patronage to less than 10 is simply not financially viable, and therefore the government will consider easing restrictions in June when a greater number of customers may be possible.

Professional sports, including the AFL and NRL, are able to resume training, paving a way for these codes to return to competition. Government is working with these codes to ensure they’re training in COVIDSafe environments.

For a detailed summary of Victoria’s step one in easing restrictions please see the Premier’s Media Statement.

In addition to the easing of restrictions for Victoria, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced a $20 million package to increase testing- assisting data analysis and supporting health services.

The Government intends to test another 150,000 Victorians by the end of May while they continue to analyse samples to support contact tracing.  A dedicated outbreak team will be formed within DHHS and will be responsible for preventative action and work as a rapid response squad to manage any possible outbreaks in the community and in business.

The Health Minister confirmed that $8 million of the abovementioned package will fund medical research into COVID-19.

VTIC Coronavirus Impact Survey – we need your help prior to 12 May
I’ve outlined to you over the past week our need to have your support in gathering data and insights into the current impacts that the COVID-19 crisis is having on tourism businesses across the state. Over 300 of you have shared your information with us thus far – thank you.  We’re shaping a strong position to support our current advocacy efforts.

VTIC has been invited to participate in Government briefings relating to the state’s COVID-19 response and by completing the survey you’ll be assisting to provide solid evidence of our industry’s current situation, which I can then put forward in these forums.

Please note we require all responses prior to 12noon, tomorrow, Tuesday 12 May.

Click here to access the survey. I greatly appreciate your time taken to complete the survey and a very big thank you to the operators who have already contributed.

– Felicia

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Update, Friday 8 May 2020

A framework for easing restrictions

As my note from earlier this week mentioned, National Cabinet met today to discuss a framework to gradually ease the Stage 3 restrictions we’ve been operating under for the past eight weeks. Following this meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison conducted a media briefing, providing an update on the agreed way forward.

The Prime Minister indicated that a three-step, two-month timetable to reopen the country, with three-week intervals to track any potential second waves, will form the basis of our Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia.

Progression through stages will be based on implications of each step with success measured by three health foundation criteria; population-based testing, enhanced ability to detect contact with confirmed cases, and local health system response.

In addition, the Prime Minister urged Australians to download the COVIDSafe app, which has now been downloaded by 5.4 million of the 16 million mobile phone users in Australia. In order to successfully progress through these stages, Australians need to continue with their personal responsibilities in practising social distancing, maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene and staying home when sick.

The goal for the Government is to reopen the economy completely by July, however, each state and territory will still be responsible for easing of each stage and can “cut and paste” from the framework.

Following the Prime Minister, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed that changes for Victoria are set to be announced on Monday 11 May, and he welcomed the overall pathway and comments that had been announced today.

The Premier said that, “If you think about the top line in that framework document that the Prime Minister has put out today, and the National Cabinet agreed to, that’s a kind of menu, if you like. And we will choose elements of that and the respective timing for the rollout of each of those elements that best suit Victoria, that best suit the unique circumstances that we face”.

Treasury has also released employment predictions based on the framework and it indicates up to 850,000 jobs will be restored as a result of the successful implementation of the Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia.

The framework and stages are outlined in the figures below:

Supporting positive mental health in the workplace during COVID-19

In these challenging and uncertain times, maintaining a mentally healthy workplace becomes more important than ever.

COVID-19 is affecting the mental health of employees, managers and senior leaders, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. How does a workplace stay mentally healthy during such an unprecedented disruption? How can managers best support their teams and individual employees?

Join the Victorian Chamber for a free webinar on keeping your business mentally healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. This session will discuss how managing work-related factors such as high and low job demands, poor support and remote work can prevent mental injury and set your business up for long-term success beyond COVID-19.

Date: Thursday 21 May

Time: 2pm

Register for this FREE seminar now

Tourism Australia’s Live From Aus campaign

Many of you would have tuned into Tourism Australia’s webinar today, plus received VTIC’s Vista email, detailing the new Live From Aus campaign encouraging domestic tourism.

Live From Aus will kick off on Friday 15 May with a special one-hour broadcast at 7.30pm on Network Ten’s The Project, called the Love Australia Project. This will be followed by a program of live content designed to inspire consumers to dream about their next Australian holiday.

I would encourage you all to visit the Tourism Australia Live From Aus webpage to explore the opportunities for your business to leverage this campaign.

VTIC Coronavirus Impact Survey – we need your help prior to 12 May

I understand there are a number of surveys currently in the market, however, VTIC needs your support with our business impact survey. We’ve been invited to participate in Government briefings relating to the state’s COVID-19 response and by completing the survey you’ll be assisting to provide strong evidence of our industry’s current situation, which I can then put forward in these forums.

Please note we require all responses prior to 12noon, Tuesday 12 May.

Click here to access the survey. I greatly appreciate your time taken to complete the survey and a very big thank you to the 256 operators who have already contributed your information.

– Felicia

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Update, Tuesday 5 May 2020

It’s been another big day of announcements for our industry, all of which will have a positive impact on our future operations. We’ve outlined details for you here to make it as easy as possible to find the relevant information for your business.

With restrictions predicted to lift in the coming weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with Attorney-General, Christian Porter, and the Chair of the COVID-19 Coordination Commission, Neville Power, provided an update on steps being taken to reanimate businesses following today’s National Cabinet meeting.

The Prime Minister commented that his priority is now getting one million Australians back to work, “that is the curve we must now address”.

To coincide with the National Cabinet meeting, Treasury released figures predicting unemployment will double to 10 per cent in the June quarter, estimating over 700,000 Australians are expected to be unemployed as a result of restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The data also indicates that the hospitality, accommodation and food services sector has been most impacted with a loss of 441,000 jobs since mid-March. In addition, a further 146,000 jobs have been lost in the retail sector. All of this puts downward pressure on the supply chains, with the agriculture sector seeing massive declines as producers lose business from restaurants ceasing or reducing orders.

Safe Work Australia – Establishing COVID-safe Workplaces
Given the government’s revised priority and to support reanimation of businesses across the nation, Safe Work Australia has published the National COVID-19 safe work principles that have been agreed and implemented by the National Cabinet; with 10 adopted principles to ensure a consistent approach.

The Safe Work Australia website has been updated to include industry-specific guidelines for businesses to ensure they’re COVID-safe. By way of example, there is industry-specific information regarding the hospitality sector (including accommodation).

Plus, the site provides a range of resources for businesses to download and display in their workplaces- including checklists, infographics, fact sheets for industry, posters on handwashing and hygiene and managing physical distancing requirements. You’ll also find information relating to work health and safety (WHS) laws, workers’ rights, risk assessments and emergency plans in the event of an incident. Click here for the COVID-19 resource kit.

Each state and territory will continue to make its own decision about the easing of restrictions, but the National Cabinet will consider a framework to ensure consistency at its next meeting on Friday.

Further National Cabinet news including safe-travel zones and domestic travel
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, also joined today’s National Cabinet meeting to discuss the safe-travel zone with New Zealand. The Prime Minister confirmed that this is “still some time away, but it is important to start flagging it”. He also said, “travel between the countries may hopefully begin at around the same time someone could travel from Melbourne to Cairns”.

In terms of domestic travel, the Prime Minister said he hopes interstate travel will be possible again by the end of term school holidays.

Tax Relief on the Federal Government’s JobKeeper Payments in Victoria
The Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas MP, today announced the State Government will provide a further $491 million in tax relief with an exemption from payroll tax and WorkCover premiums on the $1500 fortnightly JobKeeper payments – meaning businesses are not paying more as a result of keeping staff on under the scheme. You can read the Premier’s media release here.

We’ve discussed this matter today with our partners at Adroit Insurance, and essentially, as a result of this latest initiative from the Victorian Government, a business receiving JobKeeper payments can have their WorkCover premiums reviewed, with the likelihood being that a premium could be reduced now rather than waiting until the end of the year. This should help greatly in managing expenses while closed or operating on a restricted basis.

If VTIC members would like any assistance in evaluating this for your business, you can contact Adroit’s workers compensation team on 1300 471 234.

– Felicia

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Update, Sunday 3 May 2020

As we look to start our Week 8 in ‘iso’, we do so, looking forward to some hopeful news on Friday about the potential for an easing of current restrictions.

The Prime Minister has advised that he will bring forward the National Cabinet meeting by one week to review restrictions, convening now on Friday 8 May. Declaring last Friday that “Australians deserve an early mark”, the Prime Minister has instilled a sense of hope that we will see some relief and some attempts to shift the nation into what will be the start of our ‘new normal’.

In Victoria, our Stage 3 restrictions are in place until midnight on Monday 11 May. We are looking forward to advice by the end of this coming week from the Premier on what our lives may look like beyond that date, including how we will be able to engage with family, friends and business.

This article in The Age yesterday noted that a Taskforce has been formed to consider practices that might work toward Pubs and Clubs reopening by late July. This is a positive sign steps are in train that might see our industry transition from its current state of hibernation.

With an eye to the future, VTIC has been engaging with industry sectors via our Policy Committees and other sources, with a view to how we can support a transition to any next phase.

While restrictions will ease, it will be a gradual process and means we need to be prepared with a plan to conform to newly defined requirements for social distancing, cleanliness, sanitisation and the use of personal protective equipment in our operations.

While everyone will be keen to get back out again, there will continue to be concerns about health and safety. As businesses, we need to be able to provide our customers with the confidence that we’re doing everything we can to ensure their safety and wellbeing. It will be important that our tourism businesses across the state are providing the same level of confidence to the communities in which they operate.

VTIC is engaging with our members and with our government colleagues to understand how we can best support industry in navigating what will likely be a very complex operating environment. For larger businesses, and particularly those with international affiliations, resources are emerging that they’re able to rely on to shape operational guidelines and staff training. For smaller businesses across the sector, this will be more challenging, and VTIC will be looking to support our members with information and resources on the new operating requirements that we will face.

In the meantime, there are some useful resources available from the Australian Government that might assist you now in looking to prepare your operating guidelines and consider what training you may need to provide to staff.

Information from the Australian Medical Association 

This resource provides COVID-19 Infection Control Training delivered by the Australian Government’s training partner Aspen Medical.
> View further information
> Access training

The Federal Government’s COVIDSafe app will be a significant determinant in the easing of current restrictions. The app could well become an important tool for our sector, with some in the industry looking to explore if this might form part of their new operating plan, requiring patrons to have the app downloaded to enter their venue. If you haven’t downloaded the app as yet, please consider doing so. We will certainly keep you informed of how our colleagues may look to apply this app as another tool in their business planning.

This weekend also saw another major announcement from the Victorian Government to support our major nature-based attractions in the state, with Zoos Victoria and Phillip Island Nature Parks sharing in a $14 million relief package.

This funding is a lifeline that ensures they can continue to operate and keep their nearly 800 staff employed. It will also allow these organisations to carry on with the critical conservation work they oversee as part of their regular operations.

The announcement also references support being made available for our Alpine Resorts. As we near the start of the ski season next month, there remains a question mark over how the resorts might operate under any yet to be determined restrictions. The state’s north-east has already suffered under the devastating bushfires early in the new year, and then lost the Easter season along with the rest of our sector. The region was counting on a good snow season to aid in their recovery, and there is yet be any decision on what this season might look like, so this package is vitally important.

You can read the Premier’s statement here.

We said in the beginning that this journey to recovery would be a marathon, not a sprint. The way we need to operate as restrictions are eased will be far different from the world we lived in prior to March. It will require us to learn new ways of working to adjust to what will become our new normal – and VTIC will be here on every part of this journey to support you.

– Felicia

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Update, Friday 24 April 2020

$24.5 billion Appropriation Bill Passed in Victoria 
This week, the State Treasurer, Tim Pallas released unemployment modelling prepared by the Department of Treasury and Finance. The modelling indicated that unemployment is expected to peak at as high as 11 per cent in the September quarter this year, with accommodation and hospitality impacted most, projecting unemployment to reach 25.6 per cent.

In response to these troubling unemployment predictions, last night the Victorian Cabinet approved the $24.5 billion Appropriation Bill 2020 that delivers new emergency funding to combat coronavirus and support jobs and businesses through to recovery.

VTIC has released a media statement urging Government to ensure the allocation of these new funds will include a strong focus on delivering much-needed support to Victoria’s visitor economy, an industry that employed over 230,000 Victorians across the state prior to the recent crisis and one that has the ability to support super-charging the state’s recovery by getting people back into jobs – quickly.

Read the media release here.

Federal Government Announces Bridging Finance to Access JobKeeper Payments 
Yesterday the Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, provided an update on the Government’s economic response to COVID-19, including activation of the Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper Payment.

The Treasurer noted that $3 billion has already been allocated to 177,000 businesses as part of their Cashflow Boost initiative, with payments of between $20,000 and $100,000 made directly to businesses via the ATO.

To date, some 900,000 businesses have registered for the Job Keeper Payment, with 275,000 submitting formal applications. Over half of those applications submitted have been from sole traders across Australia.

In his update, the Treasurer also advised that he met with the CEOs of each of the country’s four big banks and he commended them for the vital role they are playing in supporting the Government’s economic recovery measures.

Yesterday, they reached a further agreement that will see the four major banks prioritising access to bridging finance that will allow businesses to pay employees ahead of receiving the JobKeeper Payment. The Treasurer acknowledged the challenges of businesses being able to pay salaries in advance in order to receive their JobKeeper Payment. This bridging finance will go a long way in helping businesses to meet this requirement.

These four banks will each set up a hotline for their customers to expedite processing the bridging loans and to answer questions. At the time of writing this update, hotline details are yet to be released. Please continue to check your respective bank’s website for updates.

Redeem your membership training credit now with Virtual Workshops
VTIC members have exclusive access to crucial training and education programs via the Victorian Chamber of Commerce & Industry. In response to current restrictions in place to combat the spread of coronavirus, we’re pleased to announce that the Victorian Chamber has launched Virtual Workshops, providing VTIC members with the opportunity to redeem their valuable training and consulting credit while in isolation.

Virtual Workshops available include Building Resilience, Employment Law – A Practical Perspective, Lead and Manage Organisational Change, Effective E-mail Communication and more.

Call the Victorian Chamber on 03 8662 5333 to use your credits or visit the Victorian Chamber website to explore the full range of Virtual Workshops on offer.

Next VTIC Insight Series for members
The next session in VTIC’s exclusive members-only Insight Series will be with Jesse Desjardins, creator of the Guest Experience Map and leading international advisor on creativity and innovation.

Many of you will recall Jesse’s engaging presentations from past Victorian Tourism Conferences. Joining us all the way from Bangkok, Jesse has agreed to take us through a deep dive one-hour session on how to design a winning value proposition for a new future.

In this session, you’ll learn how to use practical tools to help you apply the latest consumer sentiment research, navigate through these uncertain times and design a value proposition that will help you to win new customers. Don’t miss out on being part of this interactive and informative session.

Date: Tuesday 5 May
Time: 1pm – 2pm

Register Now

Last chance to apply for Business Support Fund
The Victorian Government’s Business Support Fund grant of $10,000 will be closing Monday 1 June 2020. Make sure you apply before the deadline.

Small businesses are eligible if they:

  • Employ staff
  • Have been subject to closure or highly impacted by restrictions
  • Have a turnover of more than $75,000
  • Have a payroll of less than $650,000
  • Hold an ABN and have held that ABN prior to 16 March 2020
  • Have been engaged in carrying out the operation of the business in Victoria on 16 March 2020.

For more information and to apply visit the Business Victoria website.

Small Business Support Grants for bushfire affected businesses  
If you have lost income as a result of the bushfires, you may be eligible for the new $10,000 Small Business Bushfire Support Grant. Application is easy, and financial documentation isn’t required immediately.

The grant is available to small businesses and primary producers who were directly or indirectly affected by the bushfires. Plus, this grant is available even if you have applied for others.

To be eligible, small businesses and primary producers:

  • Must be located in East Gippsland, Towong or Alpine Shires; and
  • Must have experienced a 40 per cent drop in revenue over three months compared to the previous year, as a result of the 2019-20 Victorian bushfires.

You may also be eligible under exceptional circumstances if you don’t meet these criteria.

You can apply for the grant by visiting the Rural Finance website.

In addition, there are several other options for small businesses and primary producers who were directly affected by the bushfires, including:

  • $50,000 recovery grants for small businesses
  • $75,000 recovery grants for primary producers
  • Concessional loans of up to $500,000

You can apply for all grants you are eligible for – and you don’t have to wait for the outcome of one grant application to apply for another different grant.

Further information about financial assistance available to businesses, primary producers and individuals affected by the 2019-20 Victorian bushfires is available on the Bushfire Recovery Victoria website or 1800 560 760.

VTIC COVID-19 survey – we need your help!
VTIC is currently engaging with stakeholders on several fronts regarding key programs and support mechanisms needed by industry to help in navigating to the other side of this crisis.

Your responses will provide us with vital intel in shaping industry programs and critical support measures for your business to help you can recover and thrive in a new post-COVID-19 world.

Please take a couple of minutes to complete this short survey.

– Felicia

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Update #16, Wednesday 15 April 2020

Moving into week 5 of our working from home and social distancing measures, and many of us are feeling the challenges deeply. It has been painful, I know, but we are making a difference – we are achieving the goal of ‘flattening the curve’, which means we are carving a firm path to the other side of this crisis.

Over the Easter weekend, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that the State of Emergency declared last month would be extended until midnight on Monday 11 May 2020. This measure will ensure the continued strict enforcement of social distancing, isolation and other vital directions put in place by the Chief Health Officer to slow the spread of coronavirus and keep us safe.

The extension sadly also means restrictions on business operations are likely to be in place for another month at least. I’ve had conversations with many of you about how we start to plan for when these restrictions are lightened. While Government may not be ready at this stage to have these discussions, we are looking at how we best engage with our members to start planning for that event, so VTIC will be in a solid position to bring our industry’s priorities to the fore.

I want to share with you a few new avenues we are preparing as we turn our minds to pathways for recovery:

Insight sessions to prepare for a changed consumer
To prepare for the future, VTIC will be kicking off our new series of Insight Sessions that will help our members to be in front of the curve when the time comes to reconnect with consumers. I know there have been many webinars that we’re all involved in that have been designed to provide valuable information to guide us through the stresses of current business operations. VTIC is looking at how we might deliver sessions with a slightly different twist that focus on how we can prepare ourselves for the new consumer that will emerge from this devasting global crisis.

In our first session, we have partnered with our friends at Clemenger BBDO who have been engaged deeply in tracking the sentiment shifts of Australian consumers throughout this crisis. In partnership with Quantum Market Research and Hall & Partners, this data has been collected since 26 March, capturing 300 interviews per day, five days a week. That’s 1500 interviews per week tracking the rapidly changing sentiment of Australian consumers.

Standard research for tracking sentiment simply can’t keep pace with the quickly shifting mood and behaviours of the nation right now. This work delivers consumer sentiment and behaviour in real-time. It provides valuable insights for us to be aware of any challenges and helps us in being prepared to take up any opportunities as they emerge.

Paul Ress-Jones, Executive Planning Director with Clemenger BBDO, will present these critical findings in a very special opening session that VTIC has organised exclusively for our members. Further details will be sent out this week to register for the event, but mark your calendars now for Tuesday 21 April at 1pm.

Spreading positivity
While our news feeds clog up with COVID-19 live streams, supermarket updates and TikTok videos, at VTIC, we want to spread some positive messages of Victoria’s tourism industry far and wide. Beginning next week, we will be producing a weekly communication with the fantastic things our industry is doing, from backyard tours to new services and collaborations.

If you would like to receive this special piece we’re producing to brighten your day, you can sign-up here.

Better still, if you’ve got a positive message to share, send the details to info@vtic.com.au. We’re looking for articles, images, videos, podcasts, the works- this is for you – about you – so please send us your good news!

Future support initiatives
We are currently shaping future support and development initiatives for the industry that we’re looking to roll out over the coming weeks and months. To ensure we design and deliver the most relevant and useful content, we want to know what information and resources have been of most value to you, and what your future business needs might be as we navigate our way through this challenging time.

If you can please complete this short survey, it would greatly assist us in meeting your needs as we work through this together.

LATEST NEWS
COVID-19 Export Capital Facility

Last night, Minister Birmingham announced financial support totalling $500 million under the new banner of the COVID-19 Export Capital Facility for Australian exporters.

Exporters across the country who have been impacted by COVID-19 will now be able to access business-saving loans of between $250,000 and $50 million. Export Finance Australia will administer this new capital facility. It will target loans to established and previously profitable trade-exposed businesses, with particular focus on the tourism and education sectors that have suffered real hardship in the current crisis.

The Minister released a statement on the COVID-19 Export Capital Facility earlier this morning, followed by the release of a factsheet.

ABS visitor arrival data for February 2020 released
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has today released visitor arrival data for February 2020. This data shows the number of visitors arriving in Victoria decreased by 29.9 per cent on last year, with Chinese arrivals decreasing by 90.3 per cent.

Sadly, this data is not surprising and is merely a foreshadowing of many such dark reports about the state of our inbound industry. It’s been reported that our nation is losing $9 billion per month for every month that our sector is not operating. Staggering to imagine, but a clear illustration of the important contribution that the visitor economy makes to the national economic performance.

We will continue to share with you the data as it’s released by the ABS over the coming months.

For all the details, visit the ABS website.

City of Melbourne Virtual Business Support Summit
A reminder that our partners at the City of Melbourne will tomorrow be presenting a Virtual Business Support Summit from 10am to 12.30pm.

This session will be hugely valuable for businesses across our sector, with guest presenters and a message from Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.

If you haven’t already done so, you can register here.  

All the best and I sure look forward to seeing you all sometime soon.

– Felicia

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Update #15, Thursday 9 April 2020

“Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good”
– Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in reference to the JobKeeper legislation passed yesterday.

Late last night, the Federal Parliament passed landmark legislation that saw the proposed $130 billion JobKeeper program become reality. This is the largest economic package ever passed in our country’s history and VTIC commends the Coalition and the Opposition for taking such a bipartisan approach to this crucial initiative.

I know how vitally important this legislation is to the survival of so many of our tourism businesses across the state. While this measure may not save every business, hopefully it will provide the lifeline that allows many to maintain operations, along with the engagement of dedicated staff that have helped to build these businesses over the years.

In the conversations I’ve had with so many of you today, while this is a welcome announcement, there remains many questions. VTIC will continue to work with our colleagues at the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to understand more of the nuances that many of you have brought to our attention and will share findings to assist you in navigating this new world.

JobKeeper wage subsidy passed by Federal Parliament
The Federal Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy will deliver a payment of $1500 a fortnight to assist approximately 6 million workers across the country. Importantly, this package will ensure eligible employers remain connected to their workforce, helping them to restart quickly when the crisis is over.

Over 750,000 businesses across Australia have already registered to participate in the JobKeeper Program, which will commence in May and run for six months.

Detailed information on the JobKeeper payment can be viewed here.

This article from ABC News also presents valuable Q&As in assessing elements of the JobKeeper package.

City of Melbourne Virtual Business Support Summit
VTIC’s valued partner, City of Melbourne, is hosting a Virtual Business Support Summit next week. The Summit will provide businesses information on support available from federal, state and local governments, tips for looking after your mental health and an opportunity for you to share your experience.
Date: Thursday 16 April 2020
Time: 10am to 12.30pm

To register visit the City of Melbourne website. 

As we move into the Easter holiday season, this will indeed be a very different celebration for us as an industry. While we would normally be gearing up for an influx of visitors, this year our businesses will be silent.

We have had to deal with rolling crises since the start of this year that have crushed our sector in ways we never thought possible. As I talk with all of you over and over again though, I am reminded of the strength that exists within us. I am reminded of the solidarity and camaraderie that sits at the core of who we are as an industry, and it fills me with hope knowing that we are on this journey together. We will support each other and we will find a way through this together.

In the coming weeks we will look to be sharing more of these stories of the innovation and creativity that will serve us well as we ride this hurricane out. To that end, we will be taking our “Spotlight on a Member” online as a way of profiling the ingenuity of our members and inspiring the industry to push on, to push through, and to make it to the finish line.

In the meantime, from all of us at VTIC, we want to wish you and yours a beautiful Easter holiday filled with lots of laughter, good times, and wonderful memories created in our indoor worlds!

– Felicia

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Update #14, Tuesday 7 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.

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