South West tourism operators left to languish

Warren Hately and Peter LawAugusta Margaret River Times
Deputy Liberal leader Libby Mettam has called for greater support for Capes tourism operators affected by COVID-19 chaos.
Camera IconDeputy Liberal leader Libby Mettam has called for greater support for Capes tourism operators affected by COVID-19 chaos. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian, Michael Wilson

Capes MP and Liberal deputy leader Libby Mettam has rubbished the State Government’s lack of support for tourism operators, left out of eligibility criteria for vital COVID-19 relief.

Not for the first time, Ms Mettam said the criteria to judge whether businesses received help to counter lost trade from Perth’s snap lockdowns and ructions on the east coast left too many operators without a lifeline.

While $3000 grants were offered after Perth’s third lockdown last month, tourism-reliant businesses such as wineries, breweries, distillers, wildlife parks, museums, tour guides, coach services and vehicle rental firms were excluded.

Other employers to miss out on financial support include specialty retail stores, physiotherapy, remedial massage clinics and allied health professionals, as well as certain manufactures.

“The McGowan Government have again dismissed this region as being affected following the Perth-Peel region lockdown,” Ms Mettam said.

“Rigid eligibility criteria for the grant has excluded many genuine tourism businesses who experienced a downturn during the school holidays.

“I am aware that there are at least 80-100 tourism businesses who suffered through booking cancellations and the necessity to close in order to protect West Australians.

“These are people’s livelihoods and it is only fair that these grants are offered on a level playing field.”

Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall said the list excluded many attractions, tours and experiences which suffered a downturn, estimating up to 300 tourism-reliant businesses would miss out on a grant.

Wineries or breweries with a cellar door or restaurant were also excluded just because they had a wine or beer producer industry code, rather than a restaurant code.

Wilyabrup’s Black Brewing Co owner Rob Johnson said the lockdown and interim restrictions cost his business about $50,000 a week.

Despite two thirds of the income coming from the restaurant and events, because the company had a brewery rather than restaurant code, it wasn’t eligible for the grant.

“That $3000 was almost like a slap in the face really to us — then it turns out we can’t even get that,” Mr Johnson said.

“We also got nothing on the last lockdown (in April).”

A Government spokeswoman said the $41 million grant scheme was among the most generous in the country “when calculated on a per day basis”.

She said it was designed to deliver cash flow assistance to small businesses operating in the most affected sectors.

“The grant program is about striking the right balance and ensuring those businesses that were impacted directly can apply. It is important that the highest of standards are in place when dealing with public money,” she said.

More than 7000 businesses received a $2000 grant after April’s lockdown and it was estimated more than 17,500 would be eligible for round two, the spokeswoman said.

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