Travel operators seek government gift vouchers for hotels, tourist attractions
Tourism operators have called on the state government to fund vouchers for tourist attractions and accommodation to entice visitors back into Sydney’s CBD.
David Hammon, director of Hammons Holdings, which operates BridgeClimb and Scenic World, said he would "love to see" NSW follow the lead of states such as Tasmania that offer holiday vouchers worth up to $550 for a family.
Mr Hammon also suggested tax breaks for companies that offer gift vouchers for attractions as Christmas gifts or incentives to staff.
"We will be the last industry to recover and need all the support from government we can get," he said.
The holiday voucher scheme is backed by other tourism operators that have joined forces to encourage visitors back into Sydney’s CBD.
Simon McGrath, chief operating officer of Accor Pacific, said he welcomed any measure "which gets our economy moving again".
"Tourism is the lifeblood of Australia, employing 1 in every 12 people, and powerful initiatives such as voucher systems are helping local businesses and saving jobs," he said.
The Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, Accor, BridgeClimb and Merlin Entertainments, which operates SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Sydney and Sydney Tower Eye, are among the tourist attractions and accommodation providers that are part of the Sydney Visitor Collective.
The Tasmanian government is offering a second round of vouchers, valued at $5 million, from September 30 to residents of the state under its Make Yourself At Home travel vouchers. An adult can register for a $100 accommodation voucher and $50 experience voucher, while a family with children is eligible for holiday vouchers worth up to $550.
Rob Smith, Asia-Pacific divisional director of Merlin Entertainments, said tourism operators were "in conversations" with the NSW government about a tourism incentive scheme.
"This has been rolled out in other states and countries with success, injecting much needed funds directly into the tourism industry and the surrounding visitor economies, reducing the threat of losing businesses that people know and love," he said.
There was a 67 per cent drop in overnight trips to Sydney in June compared to 12 months ago, according to data provided by the Sydney Visitor Collective.
The tourism industry also faced concerns about the city being a safe place to visit as workers continue to stay away from the CBD, Mr Smith said. "Certainly there has been a drop in consumer confidence amidst concerns around travelling into the CBD, particularly when it comes to using public transport."
Mr Hammon said border closures and government advice to avoid unnecessary travel had driven tourists away from Sydney’s CBD.
Other state governments have announced multi-million dollar voucher schemes to prop up the ailing tourism sector. The Western Australian government provided10,000 $100 vouchers for local residents to use on tourism activities such as fishing charters, Aboriginal cultural tours, winery tours, and diving. The Territory Tourism Voucher, meanwhile, offers NT residents up to $200 if they spend $200 of their own money on travel.
Travel vouchers worth up to $100 will be offered to South Australians to use towards accommodation in the state under a $4 million government scheme announced this month.
NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres declined to answer questions about whether the state government would roll out a similar voucher scheme.
NRMA’s Fantasea Cruising has suspended many of its tourist cruises since March, and reduced capacity on its operating services.
NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said COVID-19 has had "a crippling effect" on all CBD businesses, particularly tourism and hospitality. "When Sydney grinds to a halt, so too do our regions," he said.
Mr Hammon said visitor numbers had boomed when BridgeClimb opened after three months of closure during the lockdown.
"In the first month of reopening we completely sold out," he said. "However government advice to avoid crowded areas such as the CBD and public transport have made residents less confident."
Tourist numbers were "stronger" at Scenic World in the Blue Mountains, Mr Hammon said. "We are noticing Sydneysiders are dispersing into regional areas but not spending at regional attractions."
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Originally published: https://www.smh.com.au