Hotels and resorts across regional Australia suffer massive job losses from tourism collapse

Quality Resort and Siesta
Quality Resort and Siesta

On a typical weekend Albury's Quality Resort and Siesta's 88 rooms are booked solid. Last weekend there was a solitary guest.

This week's bookings total five, down from about 50 on a normal weeknight.

It's a scenario playing out at hotels and resorts across regional Australia as the COVID-19 pandemic wipes out the sector's tentative attempts to recover from the drought and Christmas bushfire disasters.

"In 37 years in this business this is the worst thing I have seen by a long way," Stephen Jones who owns the Albury resort and another property in Wangaratta, said.

"The cancellations have been horrendous. They are now cancelling for Christmas."

"We have just had a cricket tournament cancelled that would have brought 80 people here for four days. You just don't pick that back up."

Most of the resort's 60 staff have been laid off indefinitely and Mr Jones and his wife have moved into the hotel to keep it operating.

"We were trying to do room service but it just wasn't working, there weren't enough people around," he said.

The accommodation sector accounts for 14 per cent of all tourism employment in Australia and contributes $6.74 billion in gross added value, the highest contribution of any single sector in the tourism industry.

About 40 per cent of accommodation jobs are in regional Australia.

Dean Long

Dean Long

Accommodation Association chief executive Dean Long said occupancies across the hotel sector had dipped below 10 per cent, with forward bookings almost non-existent and with revenue downturns of over 50 per cent.

"The hotel accommodation sector has experienced its most challenging six month period in its history, with bushfires and droughts destroying what is normally peak summer business. That has been followed by coronavirus which has wiped out both corporate and leisure business," he said.

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The association represents 3,500 accommodation operators and over 100,000 rooms across Australia.

Mr Long said the federal government's $1500 per fortnight wage subsidy would provide a much needed lifeline that would allow hotels to retain jobs and ensure they remained operational once the COVID-19 pandemic passed.

"The Easter holidays are just coming up, which normally provide a strong level of business for coastal and regional hotels, but that opportunity has also been lost, which makes the timing of this wage subsidy relief even more positive," he said.

"For regional towns, hotels often provide the lifeblood of the tourism sector. They employ large numbers of people and have a significant multiplier effect for the regional economies. To have workers retained in employment and able to work on upskilling until the crisis abates will have long-term value for a large number of regional areas across the country."

Mr Jones said he was still digesting the wage subsidy package and the implications for his business and employees.

"I need to understand it better, but I can see a couple of issues there," he said.

"For instance, it seems a bit odd that people will be getting paid but they don't have to come to work."

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This story "They are now cancelling for Christmas": The heartbreaking message from our hotels first appeared on The Canberra Times.