THE tourism and hospitality sector took a huge knock after COVID-19 restrictions forced them to close their doors, and now with Jobkeeper ending in March businesses may face ruin.
Redlands Coast Chamber of Commerce called on tourism and hospitality operators to join them for a round table discussion focusing on support for local industry this week.
Chamber president Rebecca Young said it was evident that from the businesses that attended, JobKeeper had got them through the long lockdown in 2020. She said approximately 39 per cent of Redlands businesses were still on the government payment scheme.
"There was a strong feeling though that the system the federal government put in place was quick and not perfect, changes for support needs to be more targeted moving forward from March," she said.
Businesses at the meeting covered water sports, accomodation, events, and restaurants in the Redlands and were vocal about their challenges.
The snap lockdown in January caught businesses off guard causing food wastage, loss of income as they struggled to pivot.
Some restaurants and event venues were losing business due to capacity restrictions and the public not being aware of the latest rules.
Other issues discussed at the meeting included investment for campaigns to encourage the community to go back to dining out.
"Strong feedback was also given on consistency of COVID regulation messaging prior to and post lock down from government departments charged with policing the regulations along with the feeling that more could be done post COVID to give the wider community a sense of confidence to get out and about again after lockdown," she said.
Business owners felt the government officers should be more supportive, not threatening fines.
"The feedback we received showed strong challenges around getting good quality, trained staff and the participants felt that JobSeeker actually hinders this for their industry. They have received feedback that job seekers would prefer to claim the support payment over a job in this sector that would at times perhaps pay them less," Ms Young said.
Solutions on the table included events to stimulate business including a food trail similar to Stanthorpe, a reconnect campaign with Redlands council and a Victoria Point support network.
Business owners suggested that government had consistency in messaging with one point of truth and introduced a better system if lockdowns were the future.
"The chamber will continue to engage with this sector and provide a platform for them to get support as this is going to be required to ensure our businesses doors remain open post March," Ms Young said.