NATIONAL BUS RESCUE PACKAGE SOUGHT TO SAVE COACH TOURISM

By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: courtesy BIC


A LOOMING ELECTION at the time with expert opinion it will take another 12 to 18 months before the Australian bus industry is able to “transition out of this crisis”, the Federal Government is being asked to “step up and do more” to “protect our industry and the people we support”, says the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC).

NATIONAL BUS RESCUE PACKAGE SOUGHT TO SAVE COACH TOURISM
“We need Government to step up and do more to protect our industry and the people we support," says BIC executive director Michael Apps.

Australia’s peak bus body - representing an industry responsible for transporting alone more than 500,000 coach passengers every day - made the call for a national rescue package in its advisory role to the Tourism Restart Taskforce, which was established by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in April, 2020.

Speaking on behalf of the BIC following the recent release of the Tourism Restart Taskforce’s plan to rebuild Australia’s tourism sector, executive director Michael Apps said: "We fully endorse the recommendations by the Tourism Restart Taskforce to bring tourism back to life through targeted policy reforms and greater investments in infrastructure and training."

However, he also pointed out: "We need Government to step up and do more to protect our industry and the people we support.

"We require a national rescue package to support us though the downturn and on the road out," he added.

In fact, however, such a package has already been proffered for government consideration.

As Apps explained: "…we have developed a rescue package that includes immediate financial assistance to provide a full diesel rebate, like the mining sector receives; the extension of JobKeeper for our industry beyond September; and consideration of a travel rebate of fares to encourage the Australian public to travel across the nation - not over it."

"This will support our local tourism industry and, in particular, local regional tourism."

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LONG ROAD AHEAD

With Australian tourism at a standstill, tens of thousands of jobs in the bus and coach sector are at severe risk with operators being forced to park a national tour and charter fleet of more than 8,000 large coaches and thousands of mini buses, covering non-public transport services for more than 500,000 coach tour passengers every day, according to the BIC.

"The reality is that no passengers mean no tours, no charters and no travel," said Apps.

"Since Covid-19 started and travel restrictions and border closures were announced, we’ve seen most coach operators have no choice but to be either deregister[ed], or permanently parked and most staff laid off, or on JobKeeper.

"While our operators have an essential role to play in Australia’s economic recovery by connecting travellers to our capital cities and regional areas, their recovery will be slow.

"We anticipate it will take another 12 to 18 months before the industry is able to transition out of this crisis and into its recovery.

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"Our businesses are directly connected to our communities with a local bus operator in every city and Australian town connecting local, regional and interstate travel using our services each year.

"The downturn in tourism is already seeing national and local regional coach businesses on the brink.

"An extended downturn will severely impact services in our national capital cities and at our tourism icons from the Harbour Bridge and Opera House through the Uluru and the 12 Apostles, as well as regional businesses that rely on us to service their local community tourism destinations, to charter transport trips for the local footy and cricket clubs, and for school swimming and athletic carnivals.

"With the right support, our industry can continue to play a critical role in accelerating Australia’s road to recovery across the AUD$125 billion international and domestic tourism sector," he explained.

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THE TASKFORCE

In response to Covid-19, the Tourism Restart Taskforce was established by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) under the auspices of the Australian Chamber – Tourism in April, 2020, it states.

Australian Chamber – Tourism will also be facilitating similar discussions through the tourism committee and ensuring a valuable ideas exchange between the groups to strengthen the outcomes from both, the ACCI confirms.

The members of the taskforce are as follows:

* Dr Jeremy Johnson AM (Chair) (Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

* The Hon. Bruce Baird AM (Business Events Sydney, TTF)

* Sarina Bratton AM (Ponant)

* Geoff Donaghy (BECA, ASM Global, ICC Sydney)

* Bob East (Tourism Australia)

* The Hon. Martin Ferguson AM (Tourist Accommodation Australia)

* Nikki Govan (Star of Greece)

* Denis Pierce (Australian Tourism Export Council)

* Graham (Skroo) Turner (Flight Centre)

* Jacqui Walshe (The Walshe Group)

* John Hart (Australian Chamber – Tourism)

The taskforce feeds into the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission and the Austrade Tourism Incident Response Coordination Group. Through ACCI it feeds into the Business Liaison Group in Treasury and the Department of Industry recovery group, it states.

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