03.06.2021Building Resilience of Tourism Destinations to Disasters

In 2019, when the Committee formed its Visitor Economy Reference Group, one of the discussion points was the resilience of industry and its people. The focus was on the impact of bushfires but in 2020 the focus turned to the pandemic.

Committee member, Victoria University, working in collaboration with the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, launched a report investigating the impacts of the 2020 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic on the Visitor Economy, and exploring the vulnerability and resilience of the industry.

The crises wiped $19.5 billion in visitor spending from the Victorian economy in 2020.

The report found that of those businesses surveyed:

  • Two-thirds lost between 75% and 100% of their income
  • Business insurance has risen by up to 400% in bushfire-affected areas, making it unaffordable for many
  • Almost half were struggling with their mental health, and had limited access to, or were reluctant to, seek help from health services
  • Almost half of their casual staff were permanently made redundant, with many finding more secure employment, exacerbating the seasonal skills shortage in the regional tourism sector as it tries to recover
  • Only 30% feel confident of recruiting an adequately skilled workforce in the next 12 months
  • 15% were directly affected by the bushfires however, two-thirds say their income was affected and 89% were receiving government support.

Lead researcher Dr Joanne Pyke, Director of the School for the Visitor Economy at Victoria University, said the majority of those hit by the double crises were struggling.

“The industry is depleted emotionally, financially and physically,” she said. “At the same time, they need to quickly rebuild their businesses, often without the finance, support and workforce they need to do so.”

Building the Resilience of Tourism Destinations to Disasters report highlights the need for State and Federal Government policy interventions to:

  • Help address the seasonal labour shortage and barriers to attracting more workers, such as the high cost of accommodation in tourist locations
  • Ensure businesses can access affordable insurance to allow them to rebuild after bushfires, flood, drought and other natural disasters
  • Transition to a low-carbon economy to attempt to reduce the frequency and severity of natural disasters
  • Provide appropriate mental health services in regional communities, that meet the needs of a business community and remove barriers to access
  • Encourage businesses to take up accredited training in risk management, leadership, contingency and continuity planning
  • Support operators to innovate and develop skills in online business and marketing, to allow more businesses to continue operating during a crisis
  • Engage cross-border communities to ensure workable solutions, if future lockdowns are needed.

Read more about the ongoing work of our Visitor Economy Reference Group here.

Read the full report here

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