Thousands of jobs are at stake as tourist operators face financial ruin within weeks without certainty on borders amid a growing risk some airports will close, a government committee has heard.
About 172,000 tourism businesses are left with just two weeks left of cash reserve, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry told the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 on Thursday.
“We’re getting pretty close to that line where those businesses are going to have to take some hard decisions,” the chamber’s tourism committee executive chair, John Hart, said.
“If we do not have those borders open now, these businesses are going to go through the hoop.”
The Australian Airports Association said airports had not received any direct support during the pandemic and were collectively losing $300 million a month.
Hobart Airport had already closed on certain days while other airports were considering cutting services, CEO James Goodwin said.
“There’s a growing risk airports will cut services to save costs,” Mr Goodwin told the committee.
“In some cases airports will close facilities for periods of time.”
The tourism sector was likely to be losing $1 billion a month, with jobs down 65 per cent, Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond told the inquiry.
The industry would not recover without international borders reopening, she said.
“Even at our best moment, which will probably be next January if some borders open up, we’re still looking at being 40 per cent down on jobs.
“It’s a devastating impact.”
Some tourist operators are only operating at about 10 per cent of normal revenue as many rely on international or interstate revenue, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s tourism director Jenny Lambert said.
“Businesses will hang on, they’ll keep remortgaging their house,” she said.
“But if they don’t see an immediate future and it’s very hard for them to hang on, that will mean many, many thousands of jobs lost in tourism within the next month or two.”
Tourism businesses understood the need to keep Australians safe but “cannot understand at all why some of these borders are closed in a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer approach”.