WA's multi-billion dollar tourism hit: Mandurah's plan to get back on track post-corona

The Peel tourism industry has taken a massive hit as the closure of regional borders continues to loom over the region. Photo: Supplied.
The Peel tourism industry has taken a massive hit as the closure of regional borders continues to loom over the region. Photo: Supplied.

Mandurah's tourism industry is preparing to claw it's way back from its toughest challenge yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across WA, the tourism sector has lost $3.1 billion and more than 30,000 jobs as six months' worth of bookings were cancelled, and refunds paid to customers, following WA's regional travel restrictions.

Visit Mandurah general manager Anita Kane said the tourism sector in the City of Mandurah, which employs more than 2800 people, had taken an unprecedented hit of its own.

"As with every region in WA, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact across the industry, due to a number of necessary bans and restrictions put in place by all levels of government," she said.

"All tourism businesses have been hit hard.

"Some have had to cease operations completely."

All tourism businesses have been hit hard.

Visit Mandurah general manager Anita Kane

Peel Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) general manager Andrew McKerrell agreed.

"It is incredibly tough for tourism operators right now and it is going to be tough for them for quite some time," he said.

"While all other industries are going to go back to what can be perceived as the new normal, it may take them a bit longer."

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A recent survey by the PCCI shows a number of Mandurah tourism businesses do not have the financial capacity or capital reserves to access the JobKeeper wage subsidy, despite being eligible.

Tourism Council WA chief executive officer Evan Hall said many tourism businesses still face fixed operational costs to maintain their business and were unable to access the government assistance to survive a period of hibernation.

"This is either due to the seasonal nature of their business or not having enough cash to pay employees in advance of receiving the subsidy," Mr Hall said.

"Without immediate cash flow to sustain them, some of them may never reopen for the eventual recovery."

Mr Hall said the key to ensuring the survival of impacted businesses and employees was reopening regional borders.

"Regional WA is either dependent on resources or tourism for their jobs - it is as simple as that - and the key to saving those jobs is Western Australians holidaying in WA," he said.

"If we did that over a period of time, if West Australians were free to travel, it would absolutely save all of our regional towns without a doubt."

Our tourism is definitely going to be needing the support locally first and foremost.

Peel Chamber of Commerce and Industry general manager Andrew McKerrell

Mr McKerrell added that intrastate tourism would be the best chance at helping the Peel region recover from the pandemic.

"A majority of our tourism offerings are geared towards our international visitors and we are not going to be seeing international visitors for quite a while," he said.

"Our tourism is definitely going to be needing the support locally first and foremost.

"We as a community have all reaped the rewards of our tourism offerings and providers and I think once we are able to get out, it is really going to be up to us as a community to help those who have supported us so much in the past."

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Until then, Mandurah businesses are using the downtime productively - revising procedures and completing jobs they did not have time to finish before the crisis.

"I've spoken to many tourism businesses who are using this time to carry our refurbishments, review their products and engage in extra training," Ms Kane said.

"More broadly, it's been great to see so many hospitality businesses adapt by offering takeaway and delivery.

"Some, such as accommodation providers and houseboat hires, are still able to service a small number of clients who require their services for a number of reasons.

"All of these efforts will stand them in good stead when the pandemic passes."

As for the local tourism body itself, Ms Kane said Visit Mandurah had plenty in store for their post-coronavirus plans.

"At Visit Mandurah, we are using this time to progress our grant projects, creating a digital tourism hub, and developing a walking tour and Visit Mandurah ambassador program," she said.

"We are also developing a destination recovery marketing campaign which will be ready to be rolled out to attract visitors back to Mandurah when the time comes."