Friday, 17 July 2020
I know that the challenges of the past couple weeks have thrown enormous pressure on so many of you, on top of the many struggles that have resulted from the first round of shutdowns in mid-March.
The VTIC team has spent the past week engaging with relevant government departments in an attempt to try and get answers for the many queries and issues you’ve raised with us as you try to navigate the Accommodation Support Program and other relief measures that were introduced last week.
In this edition of our Update, we have outlined as much information and insight as we’ve been able to gather to support you in this process. As always, there is still more unfolding on a daily and weekly basis; but we will continue to update you as and when new information comes to hand.
Regional Tourism Accommodation Support Program – applications now open
The Regional Tourism Accommodation Support Program is now open for applications. The program will run until the end of the current Stage 3 ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions on 19 August, or when funds are exhausted.
We have received valuable feedback from you on this program and have been working closely with the Department to ensure your concerns are addressed. As such, updated guidelines for the program are now available. If you have previously read the guidelines, please ensure you also read the updated guidelines. Please refer to the WORD version of the Guidelines as the PDF version is not currently displaying all 8 pages of content.
Many of you have enquired on the timing of payments to be eligible for the refund. We’ve been able to confirm that payment of the booking does not have to have been made prior to the visitor arriving to be eligible. Payments due on arrival by the guest or at the conclusion of their stay are still eligible to claim if you can prove that a booking was made, and consequently cancelled, by a visitor impacted by the return to Stage 3 ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions.
Click here to submit your application.
We’ve also heard from you on some specific questions pertaining to the Regional Tourism Accommodation Support Program which we’re outlining here in a Q&A format for your review.
Q: Am I still eligible for funding if I resell the bookable accommodation after submitting an application?
A: You will still be eligible for a refund if your application meets the criteria for funding. You must have submitted an application for a cancellation for the period from 1 July to 19 August.
The $1125 cap on refund claims applies for the full period per bookable offering regardless of how many times the bookable offering was booked or cancelled for that period.
Q: I operate a bookable property without an ABN – am I still eligible to apply for the Regional Tourism Support Program?
A: We understand there are currently no plans to extend the program to providers without an Australian Business Number (ABN).
However, if your property is being managed by an accommodation booking agent operating under an ABN held before 30 June 2020, and the ABN is current when you apply, you may be eligible to receive a refund via your agent.
Q: How do I demonstrate that I have been unable to replace the cancelled booking?
A: You do not need to provide written evidence that you have been unable to refill the cancelled booking, but you will need to attest you have made an attempt to do so in the application.
Postcode requirement in obtaining accommodation refunds
Identifying that cancellations have come from the affected postcode areas is a requirement to claim under the program. Some of you have noted the challenges of confirming the postcodes of cancelled bookings when they come from third party distribution platforms like booking.com, expedia.com or wotif.com.
In my COVID-19 update from 3 July, thanks to our relationship with Expedia, we were able to provide you with instructions on how to ascertain the postcodes of cancelled bookings coming from the stable of distribution sites under the Expedia brand.
Please see the link here to the relevant content from that update that spells out the distribution platforms included in the Expedia family and instructions on how you can access information to determine postcodes for the cancelled bookings.
Your legal responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012
Residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire have returned to Stage 3 ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria.
This means that residents in these areas, as well as some interstate visitors prevented from travelling to Victoria, will have to cancel bookings with accommodation providers in regional Victoria, as travelling would not comply with the current restrictions.
The latest Victorian Government imposed restrictions may trigger a ‘frustrated contract’ under the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012. This means it is impossible to perform or carry out a contract due to events beyond all parties’ control and the customer would be entitled to a refund of any payments already made.
If the customer has not requested a refund and is amenable to negotiating, you may be able to agree to alternative arrangements with them – for example, holding the deposit over to a future date.
Further advice is available at Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Accommodation businesses impacted may be eligible to make a claim to reimburse for refunds made under the Regional Tourism Accommodation Support Program as described above. To be eligible for this new program, accommodation providers must refund customers 100 per cent of any payment made towards the booking amount.
Again, click here to view the guidelines and submit your application for the Regional Tourism Accommodation Support Program.
Refusal of service
We have heard from many of you that the refusal of service requirement has been extremely challenging for you to manage. The Department has put together some posters for regional hospitality businesses to display at the front of your business to assist when you have to refuse service.
Tourism and Hospitality guidelines
A reminder to our members that the Tourism Industry Guidelines for coronavirus and the Hospitality Industry Guidelines for coronavirus are regularly updated on the Business Victoria website. Both pages are now up to date including the latest restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire and information on businesses outside restricted postcodes, facemasks in the workplace and many additional resources to assist you.
Seasonal heavy vehicle registration
For our tour and transport sector members, you might want to investigate ‘seasonal registration’ for your heavy vehicles with VicRoads. Seasonal registration allows you to nominate specific parts of the year in which you intend to use your heavy vehicle. Under this registration, you are only required to pay for those months the vehicle is intended to be used. For more information, visit the VicRoads website. The seasonal registration form is available here.
And a big shout out to a wonderful member of our VTIC family, Kerry Watt at Gourmet Pawprints, for sharing this valuable information with us!
Latest ABS figures confirm our industry is the major casualty of coronavirus shutdowns
On Tuesday, the ABS released data on the Weekly Jobs and Wages Performance across Australia, highlighting the decimation of the tourism and hospitality industry, resulting from coronavirus shutdowns since mid-March.
The results are a sad reflection of what our industry has known for months. While every business has suffered under the weight of the national shutdowns that were required in flattening the curve back in March, no industry has been hit as hard, and for such an extended period of time, as the sectors that make up our tourism economy.
The figures released on Tuesday for jobs in Accommodation and Food Services from mid-March to 27 June show a dramatic decrease of 21% over the period – nearly four times that of the ‘all industries’ average – with a corresponding decline of nearly 18% in total wages. Arts and Recreation were also hit hard, with an 18% decline in paid jobs in the sector over the same period, an outcome that’s over three times the ‘all industries’ average of -5.7%.
You can read our media release here.
VTIC Insight Series
We look forward to welcoming the Hon. Martin Pakula MP to our next Insights Series session at 1pm on Wednesday 29 July.
Minister Pakula will share with us what the State Government has done to support our sector through the current crisis, and what measures are being focused on right now to ensure the revival and ultimate thriving of our industry.
Click here to register for this session.
APAC Revenue Management Virtual Summit
The Australian Revenue Management Association is taking the APAC Revenue Management Summit online for its 5th year in 2020. The Summit is the largest education-focused and dedicated revenue and yield management conference in the region covering revenue management and digital marketing with a focus on sharing ideas, thinking out of the box and delivering practical insights. The Summit will be held on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 July 2020 and our friends at the Accommodation Association of Australia have extended a special offer for VTIC members to attend two days for the price of one using code: AAOA2020. Click here for more information and the register.
We are making every effort at VTIC to stay on top of new developments and opportunities for industry to access in looking to weather the enormous challenges facing us all right now. In addition, we continue to advocate to government on the needs of all parts of the visitor economy, of which some sectors have yet to be able to benefit from many aspects of the support programs announced to date. I will have more to share with you on our efforts in these areas in my future updates, but trust that we are well aware that we have sectors within our industry that have immediate survival needs, but the current relief packages have provided them little or no opportunities.
Please continue to share with us, as you have been, what you’re seeing and experiencing on the ground. This information is gold and allows us to help in shaping and forming future responses from government to the current crisis situation.