The current spike in infections has delivered a disappointing stutter step for our progress..

Friday, 26 June 2020

But let’s have measures in place to ensure we can move at pace from 12 July.

Through this week, I’ve lost count of the conversations that I’ve had with so many of you around the confusion and disappointment that followed the Premier’s announcement on Saturday afternoon that restrictions would not be easing further from Monday 22 June – as we had all hoped.

Many of you had stocked up on supplies, you’d called back staff and were in full gear to activate to 50 patrons from Monday – and just in time for the all-important June school holidays.

That excitement was extinguished quickly last weekend and the subsequent days threw up much confusion about the ability to travel in Victoria and a real lack of clarity around how we were to interpret these latest instructions.

The 20-patron maximum will now remain in place until Sunday 12 July, when the Premier will deliver further advice on future easing of restrictions. I know this puts enormous pressure on many of you as you needed that cap to increase to 50 to create more viable operating models.

We’ve listened carefully to all your concerns, and we’ve been engaging almost daily with colleagues in various government agencies to seek some clarity for the industry in navigating restrictions and the public messaging for those looking to travel.


Prime Minister’s update today following National Cabinet in Canberra

Prime Minister Scott Morrison conducted another press conference today following the meeting of National Cabinet where he said all states agreed to stick to the 3-step plan that was introduced some weeks back. The PM outlined some promising adjustments to restrictions, following advice from his Medical Expert Panel.

Smaller venues may now be able to operate on 2 square metres per person
It was agreed today by National Cabinet that we can move to mass adoption of the two-square metre rule for smaller premises. The definition of ‘smaller premises’ will be determined by individual jurisdictions but, as a rule of thumb, that would be a premise of around 100 square metres.

The AHPPC has considered the move, but it will be up to individual state jurisdictions to choose when and how they activate this new rule. Given the current situation in Victoria, however, it’s unlikely we will see any adoption of this rule before the 12 July date that our Premier has set for the next announcement of any easing of restrictions in Victoria.

AHPPC has been asked to consider a roadmap for how the events and entertainment industry might find a way to reactive quickly and safely. 
The Prime Minister said that it would be up to each state, but he hoped that people could return to attending events sooner rather than later. The key focus of expert advisors has been on the ability to know who’s attending these events, who they have been in contact with, and how social distancing measures are being adhered to.

The CMO noted that ticketed events would be preferable to mass gatherings without seats. Festivals where people crowd together in an uncontrolled fashion are deemed as far riskier and will probably not occur until much further down the track.

When can international students return to campus?
The PM noted that they are working with several states and territories on this issue to formulate a plan.

He’s adamant, however, that this will not happen before Australian students are back at universities across the country. The borders of the states where those campuses are located also need to open first.

On international travel generally
The PM was clear that outside of the NZ travel bubble, international borders will likely remain closed for the foreseeable future. This is of course disappointing as so many of our industry are heavily reliant on inbound tourism and is all the more reason that an extension of the Federal JobKeeper Program is so vital.

Federal Government’s JobKeeper Program 
With the impending ceasing of the JobKeeper Program in September, we’ve heard from so many of you that an extension of JobKeeper is vital to sustaining your businesses beyond the deadline.

Through our national association, the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), we have been engaging extensively with Canberra on this issue. Through our ATIC Executive Director, meetings have taken place with the offices of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister.

The Federal Government is giving serious consideration as to how any extension of JobKeeper might be facilitated. Still, there is a clear understanding of the fragile situation being faced by the tourism, hospitality and events sectors as part of this.

The position we are prosecuting at a national level is that we are seeking a six-month extension; but that may need to be longer depending on when international borders might reopen, given the reliance of so many segments of our industry on inbound tourism.

Again, we will keep you apprised of developments in this space.

$250 million Coronavirus Relief Package for the Arts Industry 
Yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison of a $250 million coronavirus rescue package for Australia’s ailing arts sector was long overdue and finally gives them access to grants and loans that will assist the sector in weathering the COVID-19 crisis.

Guidelines for how the grants and loans will be administered are due to be released shortly, but an allocation of $75 million in competitive grants, of amounts between $75,000 and $2 million, will be made available to provide capital funding for new festivals, concerts, tours and events.

The package also includes $90 million in concessional loans to help fund new productions, $50 million to help film and television producers secure financing and restart productions, and $35 million in direct assistance to Commonwealth-funded organisations who are struggling to stay viable.

Please see our media release welcoming this announcement here.

The Victorian Government has today announced 4,800 thermal temperature testing devices for key regional tourism centres across the state.  

On-site temperature testing with infrared thermometers will occur to protect and support travellers and accommodation operators across Victoria as we head into school holidays.

About 4,800 thermometer devices will be delivered to holiday locations as part of the government’s efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus. As well, coronavirus testing clinics will be set up in popular destinations on the Great Ocean Road and in the Alpine region, including at Lorne, Apollo Bay, Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Mount Buller.

Accommodation providers with communal facilities who will be expecting an increase in school holiday visitation, including caravan parks, will be given priority access to these thermometers.

I know this will come as welcome relief to many of you who have been very concerned about how to manage issues around whether to accept visitors from some areas of the state. This move will undoubtedly help in supporting some of these decisions.

Please find the Premier’s media release here.

Testing Blitz in Hot Spot Areas
Premier Daniel Andrews held another press conference yesterday where he outlined the government’s plans to undertake a testing blitz across the 10 LGAs that have been identified as coronavirus hot spots in outer Melbourne.

They will commence with a blitz in Broadmeadows and Keilor Downs with a view to testing 50 per cent of residents over three days. Over the next seven days, they will then follow on to the other seven LGA hot spots identified, looking to achieve 50 per cent testing in these areas over 10-days.

There has been no travel restriction placed on these locations, other than to request if people feel unwell, they should stay home. There is also no mandate that our tourism operations across the state should decline to accept bookings from people travelling from these areas.

You should indeed enquire to ensure that no one in a travel party is unwell, but there is nothing in place that directs you to take any further action or to reject their plans to visit you.

Visitor Economy Recovery Taskforce
These have been some of the most challenging times that our industry has faced in living memory, and we know that the road to our recovery will be long and slow. There will be many challenges that we still need to face as we work our way through this, and VTIC is ensuring that government has a clear view of what the industry feels is needed to set us on a pathway for growth.

To that end, VTIC has formed a Visitor Economy Recovery Taskforce to assist us in developing a submission to government outlining a roadmap that can drive our resurgence as a major contributor to the state’s economic fortunes.

The key themes of the submission span both demand and supply requirements, covering Marketing, Events, Industry Strengthening, Product Strengthening and Aviation, Data and Insights and Collaboration.

Our submission will be delivered today, and VTIC will continue to engage with government as we prosecute the needs of the industry to shape and support our recovery.

Industry Guidelines for COVID-19
In our extensive engagement, we’ve also shared feedback that you’ve provided to us regarding gaps in the Tourism Industry Guidelines for COVID-19 that were introduced on 1 June. Your comments have been highly regarded and resulted in updates to key elements of the guidelines; this includes, but is not limited to:

  • Bedding and cleaning requirements
  • Tour and transport activities
  • Activity providers

You can find the full version of the revised guidelines here.

We understand that there are still many concerns for industry within these Guidelines. In particular, we are seeking clarity on the maximum number of patrons allowed as part of tour operations. At the moment, the guidelines note that there is a 10-person maximum for tour and transport groups, which is out of step with the 20-person maximum for other tourism operations. We are currently seeking urgent clarity on this point and will update you further as soon as we can.

If you do have specific questions on the guidelines and need assistance in applying them to your business, please call Business Victoria on 13 22 15.

New School Camp Guidelines introduced today 
In addition to the revised Tourism Industry Guidelines for COVID-19, today the Victorian Department of Education and Training released guidance for camp operators and school groups to operate in a COVID-safe environment. The link below highlights advice around:

  • Guidance for Providers and School Groups fact sheet
  • Health and safety advice for return to on-site schooling in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • The Department’s Excursions policy (including camps and related adventure activities) which schools are required to follow
    • Please note schools are still only allowed to attend camps and related adventure activities at this stage
  • Principles and advice for accommodation providers from Business Victoria.

You can find the full detail in the link here.

Victorian Ski Season COVID-19 Information
For operators in our ski fields, in addition to the Tourism Guidelines, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has issued COVID-19 information for the Victorian Ski Season.

Free COVID Clean module through Quality Tourism Framework
Through our recent survey on the challenges that you’ve faced in reopening your businesses from 1 June, just over 50 per cent of you told us your biggest concern was ensuring the safety of your customers in the new COVID-safe world.

We know these new operating requirements can be confusing and create additional concerns in looking after your customers. As part of the national Quality Tourism Framework, the new COVID Clean module can help tourism businesses in navigating these requirements and provides core base-practices that businesses can employ in operating safely in the current environment.

Based on the Safe Work Australia guidelines, the COVID Clean module covers the steps businesses should be taking to provide a hygienic environment for staff and visitors, including :

  • Training staff on the new health and safety procedures specific to your operation
  • Creating cleaning policies, procedures and checklists tailored to your business
  • Creating a COVID-19 Risk Register
  • Signage and workplace posters to promote best hygiene practices to customers
  • COVID Clean Practicing Business logo to use which will provide customers with a greater sense of confidence.

As part of the COVID Clean module and eligibility to use the logo, businesses who are not currently accredited must also complete Level One accreditation which is free to the end of the current calendar year.

You can register for the COVID Clean module here.

VTIC Insights Series on Tuesday 30 June 
Don’t forget to register to join us next Tuesday 30 June for another Insight Series session with the Hon. Martin Pakula MP; Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events and Minister for the Coordination of Jobs, Precincts and Regions: COVID-19.

We’re thrilled that Minister Pakula can join us for this very special session where he’ll share what the State Government has done to support the sector through the current crisis, and measures being focused on right now to ensure the revival and ultimate thriving of our industry.

We also look forward to having Brendan McClements, CEO of Visit Victoria, join us once again to provide an update on the developing domestic campaign for Victoria, which will follow the Minister’s session with us.

If you haven’t done so already, you can register here.

In closing
There’s been much territory to cover in this update with everything that’s transpired over this past week. The months ahead will be paved with new challenges we will need to face, and VTIC will be there with you on every step of this journey.

Now more than ever, a strong and unified single voice to government is critical to ensure the unique priorities of the tourism industry are a centrepiece on their agenda.

We are an industry that has contributed over $32 billion to Victoria’s economy. We employed over 230,000 people in our sector, with nearly 90,000 employed in our regional areas. This is an industry that must be invested in to drive the state’s recovery, and VTIC is committed to ensuring we take this message forward on your behalf.

Kind regards,
Felicia Mariani
Chief Executive

Visit vtic.com.au/coronavirus for key information available including support and funding, and information specific to the tourism industry