The recent decision to defer indefinitely the opening of Western Australia’s border is placing massive pressure on northern tourism operators.
Hon. Neil Thomson MLC, the sole Opposition member representing the region encompassing the Pilbara and Kimberley has expressed his solidarity with the tourism industry.
“Tourism operators have reported millions of dollars in cancellations of existing bookings,” Mr Thomson said.
Australia’s North West Tourism’s (ANWT) Chief Executive Officer Natasha Mahar has indicated that up to 50 operators have contacted to express their concerns and she has described the situation as an emerging crisis.
“How can these businesses who had geared up for the 5th February, plan ahead for the upcoming dry season, when none of us know how long the border will stay shut?” said Mr Thomson.
“I have met with many industry operators who continue to grapple with staff shortages, and repeatedly tell me they can’t bring staff into Western Australia, nor can they provide any certainty to consumers wanting to make bookings.
“And to rub salt into the wound, we have seen a parade of Government Ministers spruiking the benefits of the hard border on tourism in the Kimberley and the Pilbara as they jaunt their way across the State.
“The McGowan Labor Government has failed to understand that ‘one size does not fit all and many operators have simply missed out and are in distress.
“Tour operators have indicated that data showing strong hotel occupancy in towns like Broome included the higher rates before the Delta variant closed the WA borders again.
“There are many operators who focus on experiences such as charter and adventure tours who have suffered greatly.
“Even WA patronage is now at risk in 2022 with talk of regional lock downs as COVID spreads across the State.
“Operators in Kununurra, cut off from the Northern Territory are yet again, are at the end of the longest cul-de-sac in the World and they face a bleak future.”
Shadow Minister for Tourism, Vince Catania MLA also expressed concerns, noting that a ‘backflip’ on the border opening has had the same effect as a lock-down for some.
“The State Government should take steps to support struggling operators with immediate financial support and also include tourism workers on the essential criteria list to enter WA,” said Mr Catania.
“It’s time the McGowan Labor Government showed leadership on this and work towards taking a measured and safe approach to getting life back to normal.
“After almost 500 days, the McGowan Government is still not ready to open-up to the rest of the world and it is hard to have confidence in the failed health Minister, Roger Cook, who has now been appointed to lead a tourism recovery.
“While public health concerns are vital, the McGowan Government has not kept their ‘finger on the pulse’ when it comes to understanding how close some small and medium tourism and tour operators are from possible economic ruin