Tourism Council WA has been inundated by concerns from small and regional tourism businesses that they will not be eligible for the JobKeeper payment.
The JobKeeper payment has been widely well-received by the industry to keep businesses afloat and staff employed during the downturn. However, Tourism Council WA CEO Evan Hall said many tourism businesses were seasonal and may not be eligible to receive the JobKeeper payments.
“Seasonal tourism businesses do not work every month of the year, and in many cases seem to be disqualified from claiming JobKeeper payments for their employees,” Mr Hall said.
The impact of COVID-19 had been most keenly felt by seasonal businesses in the North West and Coral Coast, including whale shark tour operators and businesses in Broome, Kununurra and the Kimberley.
“Tourism businesses, particularly in the North West, have been decimated as bookings for their peak season are cancelled. At the same time, they are being asked to process refunds with cash they don’t have,” Mr Hall said.
“They are not eligible for JobKeeper payments because their employees were due to start for the peak season in April, or are casuals who have not been engaged for a whole 12 months as their season only runs for 6 – 8 months.
“These seasonal businesses have just come out of off-peak season where there is no income, and have invested everything into their upcoming peak season – it is highly likely many of these businesses will not survive.”
Mr Hall called on all Western Australian Members of Parliament to ensure the JobKeeper legislation allowed for seasonal tourism businesses and small mum-and-dad operators to get full income support for everyone who used to work in the business.
“The advice has been that the ATO may be flexible and provide exemptions for some businesses, but we need certainty on whether or not they will be eligible,” Mr Hall said.
“These businesses need to decide today if they are going to employ staff tomorrow assisted by a wage subsidy they may or may not receive in May. They cannot afford to wait until May to find out if they are eligible.”
Mr Hall said there were other businesses which had fallen through the cracks and may not be eligible for JobKeeper payments.
“Many small tourism businesses operate as partnerships or trusts – it appears only one person in the trust or partnership can receive the JobKeeper payment, leaving mum-and-dad operators with only one JobKeeper income for two or more people,” Mr Hall said.
A recent industry survey revealed 57 per cent of businesses had ceased operations and gone into ‘hibernation’, with 42 per cent still trading but with drastically reduced operations.