Kristy McBain backs ski industry calls for additional support six months from peak season

Michael Sharkey (centre) says his hotel has survived with 'good luck and a bit of good management'. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Michael Sharkey (centre) says his hotel has survived with 'good luck and a bit of good management'. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The snow industry hopes Australians will be "gun-shy" over international travel over summer and opt for regional holidays to support struggling businesses.

Despite the NSW South Coast welcoming beachgoers as restrictions eased, businesses relying on the $2 billion ski industry are facing another six months before their next peak season.

The NSW southern highlands have been disrupted for seven consecutive school holiday periods since COVID-19 followed the Black Summer bushfires.

The latest spate of lockdowns across NSW and the ACT choked the flow of customers looking for a winter holiday.

Australians have proven eager to head overseas, with Qantas reporting a dramatic uptake in international flights immediately after the international border opens next month.

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But uncertainty over cost, vaccine certificates and locations lingers.

The owner of Cooma's Alpine Hotel Michael Sharkey hoped the region could capitalise over summer.

"I don't know how well international travel will fly for the next couple of six months, just until everything settles right down," he said.

"We're hoping summer's good with regional travel, because people hopefully are a bit gun-shy about going overseas."

Mr Sharkey said the Alpine had performed "terribly" throughout COVID-19, estimating 98 per cent of bookings had been lost.

"A lot of accommodation revenue in particular, which is sort of over the winter cream, has gone by the wayside," he said.

And despite entering lockdown just weeks after Sydney, it was ineligible for the same support offered to Sydney businesses, leaving many owners feeling "a bit left out".

JobSaver had gone some way to easing the crisis, Mr Sharkey said. But the $5000 in business support offered by the NSW government, available when the hotel suffered 10 or more cancellations, covered just 5 per cent of losses, he estimated.

Kristy McBain wants more support for the hard-hit industry. Picture: Karleen Minney

Kristy McBain wants more support for the hard-hit industry. Picture: Karleen Minney

Mr Sharkey said the business had stayed afloat through "good luck and a bit of good management".

It had recouped around one-tenth of its weekly turnover through takeaway and home delivery, which kept his kitchen staff employed at reduced hours.

The NSW South Coast is set for an influx of tourists over summer, with Canberrans now able to travel to the region.

National Retail Association chief executive Officer Dominique Lamb warned the ski industry faced 20,000 job losses without additional support.

And Labor MP Kristy McBain said many businesses made between 60 to 70 per cent of their revenue during peak seasons - winter in the alpine regions, and summer on the coast.

"When people start travelling around, it won't be an easy fix," she said.

"So many of those businesses will have to wait until next winter. To be able to start to see customers come back.

Ms McBain warned an alpine support package in Victoria had not been replicated in her electorate, despite retailers meeting with the treasurer and NSW government.

"They have done a huge range of consultation with their members across the region, and they're just getting zero traction with both levels of government," she said.

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This story Alpine regions hope for 'gun-shy' international travel tourism boost first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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