State holds tight line on grants

Jackson Lavell-LeeAugusta Margaret River Times

The State Government has held firm on restrictive criteria for its Tourism Recovery Grants despite widespread criticism from Capes small tourism operators.

The Tourism Council of WA claims the industry has lost $3.1 billion and more than 30,000 jobs since March.

Tourism Recovery Grants are available to operators who belong to specific regional tourism organisations or are accredited through specific programs, but not the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association.

Only members of Australia’s South West or other regional groups can apply for the $6500 payments.

Last week, Tourism Minister Paul Papalia told the Times businesses who were not members of accredited groups could apply for the $4 million Business Survival Grants, but not for the $11m Tourism Recovery Grants.

This week, he doubled down on the decision, claiming South West businesses would profit heavily from the incoming tourism boom.

“Western Australians make about 2 million leisure trips overseas or interstate a year,” Mr Papalia said.

“If just 10 per cent of those visitors (203,000) went to the South West instead, they would spend almost $100 million in the region, which means the benefits should be enormous for South West tourism operators.”

Mr Papalia said the program was targeted towards businesses facing exceptionally difficult circumstances, which did not include businesses in the “boom” area.

Despite those assurances, Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokeswoman Debbie Noonan said the Government had decided to “punish” local tourism businesses doing it tough.

“Now when these operators are facing closure, the State Government have decided to punish them further by listening to large organisations instead of looking after those who are really doing it tough,” she said.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said she was disappointed the Government would not reconsider as the package would only help 1600 businesses and there were 2700 in tourism in the South West alone.

“Our local businesses have experienced a tough period and many need government assistance for them to be viable to reopen,” she said.

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