Businesses facing closure without subsidy
THE end of the Morrison government’s Covid-19 business relief later this month will be a fatal blow to Fremantle’s tourism economy warn struggling businesses.
JobKeeper ends on March 28, and with WA’s closed borders seeing cruise ships and air flights disappear, local tourism-related businesses say they may simply have to put up the shutters without further support.
Oz Australia owner Marcus Plato says his souvenir shop was saved by JobKeeper when it was introduced during the first national lockdown last year.
He lost 50 per cent of his customers, with locals and expats helping him to battle through the hardship.
But he doesn’t know what will happen next.
“We are scared. We’ve lost half of our staff, most who were on working visas,” Mr Plato said.
His one bright spot has been an influx of eastern states tourists coming across the Nullarbor, most first timers to Fremantle.
Two doors down Australian Lifestyle director Pauline Simpson’s sales have dropped 70 per cent compared to last year.
She has three WA stores, with one located on Fremantle’s famous Cappuccino Strip.
After the recent one-week lockdown cost the business $20,000, she feels terrified of what’s to come with the end of the subsidy, and predicts they will have to close their doors.
“The government hasn’t done anything for Perth. Broome doesn’t need the airlines,” she said of the Morrison government’s tourism relief package announced this week, which offers 800,000 half-price airfares to 13 tourism destinations – most over east and Broome the only WA recipient.
“What they need are workers up there, they’re overloaded”.
Fremantle’s acting mayor Andrew Sullivan says the federal government’s $1.2 billion tourism package neglects Fremantle.
“Fremantle needs to be recognised,” Cr Sullivan said.
“Some businesses are very reliant on tourism, especially the retail sector before Covid happened.
Souvenir businesses have pretty much packed up and gone home.”
Cr Sullivan says Covid’s impact has been “a mixed bag really; we have lost a lot of interstate and overseas tourists”.
While local tourism had helped keep the city’s hospitality and hotel sectors afloat, he says its retailers – already suffering against competition from the big malls like Westfield Booragoon – would get another hammering when JobKeeper ended.
Cr Sullivan called for the subsidy to be extended beyond the Morrison government’s deadline.