Leading representatives of Victoria’s tourism industry have today launched a proposal to reopen the state’s visitor economy using safe and staged processes that have worked in other states.
Industry leaders have undertaken a detailed review of gradual reopenings underway in NSW, SA and Queensland, and have put forward an alternative roadmap for Victoria to allow business to resume operations under strict safety controls.
Within the industry’s proposed framework:
The industry groups said it was clear Victoria could not reach the benchmarks the Andrews Government set in its roadmap and it was time for a new approach. It comes as leading epidemiologists agree the current standards are unachievable and the World Health Organisation’s Special Envoy on COVID-19, Dr David Nabarro, says lockdowns should not be used as a primary method of controlling COVID-19.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) CEO, Felicia Mariani, said: “The Victorian tourism industry has been bleeding jobs and revenue since the 2019 bushfires. Some Victorian businesses had a chance to reopen after the first lockdown, but this time around we were told no, and we understood that when case numbers were sky high.
“However, it has been incredibly hard for us to see NSW accommodation, business events, attractions and dining opening when they have similar daily case numbers to those we are seeing now in Victoria,” Ms Mariani said.
“NSW had more new cases than Victoria multiple times this week, but they proceeded with plans to double the number of people allowed in outdoor venues and increased the number of people allowed at outdoor concerts to 500.
“It’s time for the Victorian Government to change gear and focus on measures that will ensure safety while businesses operate because extending the shutdown cannot be a permanent solution to COVID-19.”
The industry leaders’ review considered how restrictions affecting the visitor economy were managed across four Australian states to understand how other jurisdictions staged reopening, the level of cases being managed at the time, and the factors for success to inform its platform.
A focus on regulatory compliance, small steps, and effective contact tracing were key.
Victoria’s tourism industry is calling on the Victorian Government to:
The Victorian Government COVIDSafe principles, including wearing a mask, staying home when sick or unwell, physical distancing (1.5 metres) and good hand hygiene would continue to apply.
Ms Mariani said the industry was ready to start small and build slowly, noting that indoor attractions, events with ticketed seating, and business events had more control over people movements and better information for contact tracing than general retail environments and supermarkets.
Indoor attractions like aquariums, museums and galleries were ready to implement initiatives such as staggered bookings and timed ticketing to control the flow of patrons through facilities.
“The industry is singularly focused on its obligations to the communities in which it operates, and operators have invested enormous effort in preparing their COVIDSafe Plans and ensuring all practices and processes are in place as directed by government,” Ms Mariani said.
Kate Smith, Chair of Meetings and Events Australia, said business events already kept detailed registration information on every delegate that could be used for contract tracing, with technology solutions such as apps and wearables available to track contacts and ensure people stay 1.5m apart.
“The sector, which once employed almost 85,000 people, including 3000 in the regions, is looking at 12 months of close to zero revenue. Given current restrictions, Victoria is not able to operate virtual events from broadcast studios. Business event organisers have cancelled, moved to virtual or have postponed 62% of their business in the first quarter of 2021 and 57% for the first half of 2021,” Ms Smith said.
“Some business events have been lost to other states. Business events by their very nature take time to plan and implement. Once permission is given, there will be a lag time of up to 12 months to bring some of the large high economic yield events to market.”
Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said: “It’s time for a more commonsense approach that strikes a better balance. The reality is that unless this happens sooner rather than later, more businesses including hotels and accommodation providers will be forced to shut their doors for good.”
The industry position was developed by VTIC, the Accommodation Association of Australia, Australian Camps Association, Meetings and Events Australia, Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of Australia, Tourism Accommodation Australia (Vic), and the Victorian Caravan Parks Association, along with various Regional Tourism Boards from across the state.