Chamber blasts SA on border closures

"Relying on intrastate travel is not enough," warns John Hart

Australian Chamber Tourism Chair John Hart has slammed South Australia for its hesitation to reopen its border to NSW residents. While welcoming the state’s border opening with the ACT this week, Hart said much more was needed, and imminently, to save tourism.

“We welcome any move to open borders, but frankly it is astounding this border has been closed until now,” Hart said.

“The ACT has had 67 days with no COVID-19 cases and the same period without any community transmission. Even under the rules now applied by the SA Government to NSW (14 days of no community transmission), South Australia could have been open without self-isolation to ACT residents travelling by air a month and a half ago. ”

Australian Chamber Tourism argues that South Australia could have opened its border to most NSW residents, given its successful management of the COVID spread to date.

“Border closures are having a huge impact on tourism business owners and workers who are quite frankly fed up with people reciting stories about a region they have visited that was busy. This in no way reflects the experience across the board.

“Relying on intrastate travel is not nearly enough – it too is down 40% on the spending of last year. This is far from making up for the loss of interstate and international visitation.

Hart said hotel occupancy levels over the past month reflect the dire situation facing the industry. In Sydney, occupancy is around 30% compared to nearly 90% the same time last year. In regional destinations such as the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley, occupancy is down as much as 20%.

Primo Estate Winery, McLaren Vale, South Australia | Photo by James Dimas on Unsplash

“Overall, international travel is down 96% and interstate travel down 82%. While international travel will be slower to start, we could have averted the crushing outcomes in interstate travel and kept much of the sector afloat. If interstate tourism was able to restart, the level of demand would go a long way to supporting businesses and preventing widespread job losses before Christmas,” Hart said.

The latest ABS data has shown over 200,000 jobs lost in the accommodation and food services sector, with 71% of businesses in that sector reporting that they will find it difficult or very difficult to meet their obligation over the next three months.

Hart called on Premiers and Chief Ministers to act now.

“We need to have all the state borders open as soon as possible, and not subject to unrealistic and disproportionate triggers,” he said.

Lead image: Photo by Timo Hartikainen on Unsplash

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