A new “tourism taskforce” has been struck to find a way forward for the NT’s struggling tourism industry that was already suffering through a turbulent economy, with fears the industry will never be the same post-coronavirus.
The Gunner Government’s Tourism Rebound Taskforce will see nine representatives from the tourism industry tasked with providing advice to the Chief Minister about how the industry can recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NT’s lifeblood tourism industry was already attempting to bounce back from a bleeding economy, however the terms of reference for the taskforce states that “the potential to never see a return to a pre-COVID-19 context” is a real possibility.
Tourism Minister Lauren Moss has already indicated that struggling Territory tourism businesses could be looking at 18 months before being able to turn a profit.
“The Tourism industry is expected to be the hardest hit by the health measures introduced to combat COVID-19 with the air transport, touring, attractions, accommodation, and hospitality sectors likely to experience forward revenue reductions of up to 90 per cent,” she said.
Ms Moss added that the timing of the crisis exaggerates impacts for the NT tourism sector, with travel bans commencing at the end of the low season and likely to extend for the remainder of the high season.
“Many tourism businesses have entered the period of restricted trading with low cash reserves and with limited or no ability to operate profitably for 18 months, until the 2021 peak tourist season,“ Ms Moss said.
The nine advisors appointed to the taskforce will be in the role for an initial one-month period to May 30, 2020. They come from different tourism sectors across Australia with expertise in accommodation, hospitality, drive tourism, aviation, and touring.
They are tasked with developing a response and “recovery roadmap” for the local tourism industry is in place to provide strategic and practical guidelines to the sector, taking into account uncertainty around the easing of border restrictions and continuation of measures such as physical distancing leading to the need for finding new ways of doing business.
Tourism has been a major employer and contributor to the Northern Territory economy with $2.2 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) and 17,100 jobs, according to government data.
The Tourism Rebound Taskforce is chaired by Tourism NT’s chair of the board of commissioners Michael Bridge. He is joined by fellow board commissioner Denis Pierce and Helen Martin, chair of the Aboriginal Tourism Advisory Council and other leaders in the tourism sector.
“We need to direct our energies into supporting the sector so they can come out of hibernation mode and get through what will likely be one of our toughest low seasons ever,” Mr Bridge said.
Other members of the taskforce include:
- Margy Osmond, CEO of the Tourism & Transport Forum
- Simon McGrath, Chief Operating Officer for AccorHotels Pacific
- Michaela Webster, Chief Operating Officer, Discovery Parks Group
- Matthew Cameron Smith, Managing Director for AAT Kings
- Peter Savoff, General Manager of the Darwin Convention Centre; and
- Grant Hunt, CEO of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.