We need our hotels to ‘survive and thrive’

The Property Council of Australia has called on the NSW State Government for investment towards the hotels industry in order to ‘survive and thrive’ as we come out of lockdowns.

NSW Property Council’s Executive Director Luke Achterstraat said the hotels industry was an often-overlooked sector of the economy which in 2019 accommodated, fed and provided hospitality services to a record high of 9.5 million overseas visitors across Australia.

“Those 9.5 million tourists spent $45 billion in Australia,” Mr Achterstraat said.

“Before COVID, the hotel sector was thriving. Growth in our nation’s tourism sector was outpacing growth in the wider economy.

“The hotel sector is one of the largest employers in the country with more than 660,000 full-time and casual staff with hotels of all sizes. In NSW, the tourism and hospitality industry employs more than 50,000 people.”

Mr Achterstraat said the recent lockdowns hit the industry incredibly hard.

“Sydney hotels, operating under restricted trading since late June, recorded occupancy rates under 2 per cent as the lockdowns crippled leisure, international and corporate bookings,” he said.

“Operators across pandemic-battered capital city markets, such as Sydney are haemorrhaging cash, with takings down between 70 and 90 per cent compared to July 2019.

“Deloitte’s tourism and hotel market outlook reveals that inbound international and interstate travel fell by 81 per cent and 65 per cent respectively.

“The impact of the decline is dramatic-7.6 million fewer international arrivals and 45 million fewer domestic overnight trips, resulting in a loss of around $85 billion in visitor spend.

Mr Achterstraat said between late March and October last year, more than 90,000 travellers passed through hotel quarantine in NSW.

“During the pandemic, hotels allowed travellers to safely enter Australia while keeping the Australian public safe,” he said.

“Hotel workers and staff have been on the front line of this pandemic, with ongoing management of active COVID travellers coming back from high risk countries for the entirety of the past 18 months, even when local community cases were at zero.

“Pre-pandemic we relied on hotels for travel, leisure, and work. During the pandemic they have been critical infrastructure. Now is the time to reposition our hotels as drivers of economic activity and great places to be.”

Quest Apartment Hotels General Manager James Shields said the past 18 months had been catastrophic for the accommodation and tourism sector.

“The reality is that many operators are just hanging on, particularly those in New South Wales and Victoria, which have endued such prolonged lockdowns and are located in the two primary international and domestic gateways,” Mr Shields said.

“There are a number of complex challenges as we re-emerge, so alongside industry partners, we will continue to call on state and federal government for targeted industry-specific support to reignite our once vibrant sector.

“We need to regain consumer confidence, be given priority access to funding to continue to enhance our product and service offerings, and reinstate and rebuild trust in a frayed workforce, as we now face an enormous talent shortage.”

Mr Achterstraat said the time for hotel recovery was now.

“What we need is support from government and a commitment from Australians to not forget about the hotels in our cities, towns, and regional travel destinations,” he said.

“Hotels need everyone’s support moving out of lockdown. The time for surviving is over for the industry, we now must move towards focusing on an industry which once thrived across Australia.

Mr Achterstraat said to achieve this we needed to attract maximum tourism and capital into large markets such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

“We must present frameworks to both state and commonwealth partners aimed at supporting the agenda of the hotels industry as part of the economic recovery.

“This includes joint initiatives that can boost post lockdown operating conditions, specifically for the hotel and tourism industry across New South Wales are supported.

“Establishing CBD and regional hotel vouchers, which promotes ‘staycations’ across New South Wales and regional locations, whilst encouraging targeted financial support measures for hotel industry operators with a 50 percent decline in turnover and revenue levels.

“Amending existing eligibility criteria for operators attempting to access ‘Job Saver’ assistance by removing onerous eligibility criteria for large hotel operators. We also need to partner with the community and government to prioritise initiatives focused on enhancing and supporting hotel workforce participation and retention across the industry.

“Finally, we need to engage with key strategic partners outside of government to distribute, support and advocate on behalf of the hotels industry and safeguard employee retention across the industry.

“These challenges and priorities facing the hotels industry will be ongoing however, hotel operators will remain upbeat for what the future may hold.”

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