Pluck a duck: Tourism icons could be sunk
Some of Queensland's most iconic tourism operators say they will be pushed to the brink if the federal government strips away support when JobKeeper ends next month.
Recent research predicted up to a quarter of Queensland's 40,000 tourism businesses could go broke as a result of the devastating impact of the coronavirus and the looming end on March 28 of the JobKeeper supplement which has helped to keep many businesses afloat.
On the Gold Coast, Aquaduck Safaris has been a tourism institution for decades, but general manager Sarah Colgate said the future was under threat.
"It will mean job losses especially through the winter months," she said.
"The tourism industry will lose professional long-term passionate employees.
"Our staff will need to get second or third jobs just to survive."
Red Cat Adventures owner Julie Telford said the award-winning Whitsunday business would be set back years if staff were lost over the end of the subsidy.
"It feels as though we are standing on the edge of a cliff, not knowing if we will be pushed over it or pulled back from the brink," she said.
In Cairns, arguably the region hardest hit by the tourism downturn, CaPTA Group managing director Peter Woodward said 96 per cent of the 187 employees were receiving JobKeeper payments.
"We fear that no replacement of the government funding, whether through an extension of JobKeeper or a specific tourism support package, will result in a significant reduction of our skilled workforce," he said.
Riverlife managing director John Sharpe said there was still a place for some government assistance to ensure businesses are supported through the next stage of the pandemic.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said time was fast running out to extend JobKeeper or to unveil another jobs support package.
"Tourism operators still need JobKeeper to put food on the table - it is too soon to cut this program," she said.
"Time is ticking fast. I'm urging the Prime Minister again to reconsider doing away with this scheme.
"In some regions, our tourism businesses rely on international visitors for up to 30 per cent of their income.
"An end to JobKeeper could well spell to so many businesses."
She also invited PM Scott Morrison to meet the tourism operators in Cairns, the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast fearful for their futures.
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said as long as international borders remained closed and overseas tourists were locked out, the Prime Minister had an obligation to keep some form of JobKeeper support in place for the tourism industry.
The Federal Government yesterday reiterated recent comments from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg who said Canberra had done "the bulk of the heavy lifting" and welcomed any financial support from the Queensland government once JobKeeper winds up.
Originally published as Pluck a duck: Tourism icons could be sunk