Small operators may miss out

Jackson Lavell-LeeAugusta Margaret River Times
Email Jackson Lavell-Lee
Picture: Warren Hately
Camera IconPicture: Warren Hately

Hundreds of small tourism businesses in the Capes may miss out on the State Government’s $10.4 million Tourism Recovery Program because they do not satisfy the criteria.

Businesses are ineligible for the program if they are not members of specific State or regional tourism organisations.

The Times understands membership of the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association does not count, with Australia’s South West and the Tourism Council of WA the most likely groups for which Capes operators might have memberships.

Other accredited groups include the WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council, Australian Tourism Accreditation Program, STAR Rating Australia Program, Eco Certification Program or the Caravan/Holiday Park Accreditation Program.

Small tourism operators across the Capes have struggled with the fallout from intrastate travel restrictions and Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region president Debbie Noonan said membership to these organisations was “expensive and redundant”.

“Unfortunately, membership to these councils was one of the first costs we had to cut in previous lean years,” she said.

“All tourism operators should have had an opportunity to access a WA taxpayer-funded grant, not just the members of those associations sitting around the table making the decisions.”

Tuarts Guest Lodge proprietor Peter Keynes said he had cut membership and accreditation with tourism organisations because they were not effective in the modern tourism landscape.

“We didn’t feel they represented our interests well, these organisations are self-servicing and expensive, and because we are no longer members that disqualifies us from the grant,” he said.

Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall said the decision on eligibility was made by the State Government.

“The vast majority of accredited tourism businesses are in fact micro businesses, typically mum-and-dad businesses,” he said.

“We advocated hard to explain to the Government the impact coronavirus had on tourism businesses which were too small to access the payroll tax grant of $17,500.”

Despite their concerns, Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said small tourism providers without membership to these organisations would be eligible for the $4 million Tourism Business Survival Grants package.

“The accreditation programs cover a broad range of tourism sectors, with some accreditation programs linked directly to inclusion in State Government activities and opportunities, including destination marketing,” he said.

“Businesses which are not eligible for the Tourism Recovery Fund are encouraged to apply for the Tourism Business Survival Grants.”

As part of the application process, businesses are required to submit a recovery and marketing plan to outline how the funding will be used and indicate how their product, service or experience could be adapted.

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