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The covid-19 pandemic has inflicted huge amounts of damage onto Queensland’s tourism industry. Border closures means that many businesses located in regions that are highly reliant on tourism as a source of revenue are struggling significantly.

On top of losing access to customers, tourism operators across Queensland are also struggling to get employees to move to their regions to work due to the level of uncertainty of covid-19 restrictions and the potential for snap lockdowns to be introduced with little to no warning.

To combat the challenges faced by businesses in tourism regions Associate Professor Richard Robinson from the UQ Business School is developing a crisis resilience and recovery plan in conjunction with the support of the Queensland state government.

Research used to create the crisis resilience and recovery plan included 15 consultation workshops with tourism industry operators across five Queensland regions: Southern Queensland, Outback Queensland, Tropical North Queensland, Whitsundays and the Gold Coast.

Queensland’s tourism industry, the findings from the research outlined that Tropical North Queensland operators had suffered the worst with a loss of both international tourists and the international labour market, such as working holiday makers. Businesses in the industries of marine and Indigenous tourism were the industries that have been hit the hardest.

“The key concerns that came up in the consultations were mostly around job security, financial hardship, wellbeing and skilled labour shortages. We are working on strategies for recovery and resilience, focused on three industry groups who experience the crisis differently — employees, businesses and stakeholders — to support a staged recovery from covid-19 impacts and develop workforce resilience,” said Associate Professor Richard Robinson from the UQ Business School.

Government support packages like JobKeeper helped improve work opportunities and a strong sense of community resulted in workforce confidence in the middle of last year, but it has since declined again in 2021 due to continuous lockdowns and border closures.

Recently published statistics show a 48.9% drop in visitors to Tropical North Queensland, while the outback boomed with a record winter season from Australian travellers.

Tourism operators and employees rated job security as the biggest impact of the pandemic.

Operations Manager TNQ of the Entrada Travel Group Hans Ullrich said it was “nearly impossible” to keep staff in the current climate.

“Our staff are highly specialised for example, we employ diving instructors and boat captains,” he said. If lockdowns end suddenly and visitors return, we will struggle to quickly fill these specialised roles that are critical to ensuring our businesses can operate,” said Hans Ullrich Operations Manager TNQ of the Entrada Travel Group.

Regardless of the increase in visitors, tourism operators reported that wellbeing issues and job performance due to labour shortages and insufficient skill sets were still major concerns.

Maintaining staff motivation is difficult for business owners in tourism reliant areas is difficult with many employees forced to work long hours in conjunction with having very few days off due to the difficulty businesses are having with being able to find more staff to carry the workload and ease the burden on existing employees.

Government Announces $54 Million Support Package For Struggling Gold Coast Border Businesses

Business on the Gold Coast that have been impacted by the recent boarder closure have been handed a lifeline from both the Queensland State and Federal Governments.

On Tuesday 14th September, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $54.5 million emergency support package with an aim of supporting businesses who have been impacted by the ongoing border restrictions and lockdowns interstate.

“We know that border communities have been doing it particularly tough. Families have been separated and communities divided and many business have been hard hit,” said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The newly announced support package consists of $6.3 million being spent towards extending the existing Covid-19 Business Support Grants Program

$6.5 million will also be distributed in the form of a one-off hardship grants scheme that will offer payments of $5,000 for employers and $1,000 for sole traders.

Up to $1 million will also be spent to match the funding for a voucher campaign, delivered by City of Gold Coast and Destination Gold Coast. This scheme will encourage Gold Coast locals to go and support businesses at the border who have been struggling. $50,000 will also be distributed to support a tourism marketing campaign for the Coolangatta area and surrounds.

Queensland’s tourism industry, the tourism and hospitality sectors situated across Queensland will also be eligible to access a $40 million hardship program which will deliver one-off grants of up to $50,000 to business that have experienced a reduction in turnover of at least 70 percent since July.

$700,000 will also be financed to assist with mental health support for business owners and their families in the border zone.