MEDIA RELEASE - NSW Labor calls for Tourism recovery plan to help industry recover

As Destination NSW prepares to welcome a new CEO today, NSW Labor has renewed calls for an official recovery plan to help regional communities survive amid a tourism crisis. Shadow Minister for Investment and Tourism Jenny Aitchison has urged incoming CEO Steve Cox to make it his first priority to develop a tourism strategy to guide the industry’s recovery post COVID-19. Businesses owners were already grappling with a significant economic downturn from the devastating bushfire season when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The impact has been catastrophic for the tourism sector. Ms Aitchsion said the industry is crying out for leadership and a lifeline moving forward. "The Berejiklian Government have abandoned regional tourism operators, who have lived through three years of ongoing drought, seven months of bushfires and then floods, and now the COVID-19. The Government slashed $65 million out of the sector in the last two years, and has had no permanent CEO in place for over six months, while tourism has been going through the toughest ever downturn," Ms Aitchison said. “Tourism has been the first hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with meetings, conferences, events and travel to regional areas outlawed. And with long lead times, the tourism sector will take the longest to recover. “Many tourism operators have told me how hard it has been to fund JobKeeper payments to keep their employees going until the Government comes in with back pay. Many have been forced to use their savings or go into further debt to support their employees as their turnover has dropped to zero. Some just haven’t been able to keep up after the horrific tourism season of 2019-20. “While it’s uncertain when domestic travel restrictions will be lifted, the tourism industry needs support now. There is no time to waste, Destination NSW needs to offer a direction on how to bounce back. “Destination NSW didn’t even turn up for the state’s largest regional tourism conference, the Local Government NSW Tourism Conference in March, failing to present their advertised ‘Bushfire Recovery Plan for Tourism’ segment. Neither the Deputy Premier and Minister for Recovery nor the Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism & Western Sydney attended the Conference, although they had previously been promoted as guest speakers. The Berejiklian Barilaro Government has turned its back on tourism operators at their darkest hour. They need to stop avoiding the conversation. “Mr Cox needs to be speaking with the State Government and industry stakeholders about how to best promote NSW as soon as it is safe to travel again. “My message to the Berejiklian Barilaro Government is that now is the time to work closely with the sector and create a comprehensive tourism relief package and a plan for recovery, so we still have a tourism industry at the end of the pandemic.”