Cracks in funding for WA tourism operators

Meelup Beach. Photo by Joe Jordanoff.

Meelup Beach. Photo by Joe Jordanoff.

Many WA tourism operators have fallen through the cracks in receiving financial assistance to help them recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19.

The Tourism Council of WA says the industry has lost $3.1 billion and more than 30,000 jobs since March when travel restrictions were first introduced.

To help the industry recover, the state government announced two funding packages to help small business owners adapt and market their businesses.

However, one of the grants, called the Tourism Recovery Grant, is only available to operators who belong to specific regional tourism organisations or are accredited through specific programs.

In the state's south west, only members of regional tourism organisation, Australia's South West, can apply for the $6500 payment.

Funded by Tourism WA, organisation chief executive Catrin Allsop said the organisation's members were eligible because they had invested money to drive visitation and spend through marketing activities.

But Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said other businesses were missing out. The recovery fund helped just 1,600 businesses across WA but there were 2,700 in the South West alone, she said.

Ms Mettam said until recently 94 per cent of tourism operators were not eligible for state assistance and 52 per cent did not seek support for the Federal Government's Jobkeeper payment.

"While certainly welcome, there is fair concern that the criteria for tourism grants was limited to the operators in the region who were accredited members of the Tourism Council," she said.

"I have written to the Tourism Minister encouraging a rethink of this approach, to ensure this valuable support reaches those in the industry who need it most."

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said businesses which were not eligible for the Tourism Recovery Fund could apply for the $4 million Tourism Business Survival Grants.

Registered Accomodation Providers of the Margaret River Region spokesperson Debbie Noonan said the state government had not considered the majority of tourism operators across WA.

Ms Noonan said all tourism operators should have had an opportunity to access a WA taxpayer funded grant, not just the members of regional tourism organisations that were making the decisions.