The latest COVID outbreak in Canberra, hot on the heels of Sydney’s and now regional NSW’s lockdown with the Delta variant, is a worrying sign for tourism and business operators according to Labor’s Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) mayoral candidate in the December elections, David Grace.

He said the 2019-20 bushfires largely wiped out the entire south coast business and tourism sectors’ prime earning opportunities when between 30-50% of annual income is derived, and the subsequent COVID pandemic has further damaged the sector throughout 2020.

“With local businesses in 2021 now facing the latest Delta wave and a state-wide lockdown, the council needs to urgently work with these sectors to ensure they survive,” Mr Grace said.

“As mayor and with a Labor team of councillors, I would make it a priority to bring together all of the shire’s chambers of commerce*, as well as South Coast Women in Business, Destination New South Wales, Destination Southern NSW, Caravan and Camping Industry Association, National Parks and Wildlife Service, state and federal MPs, and the Australian Tourism Industry Council to address how we can work together to regrow our vital tourism and associated small businesses.

“Eurobodalla has almost 1.5 million visitors annually, and its tourism operations support about 2000-2500 jobs with another 1200 or so indirectly supported by the sector – that has encouraged almost $400m being spent in the local economy annually.

“The last review of the council’s Eurobodalla Destination Management Plan was undertaken more than three years ago when it was updated in response to the release of a Destination Southern NSW report. While it sought to grow visitor expenditure and overnight stays by 25% this year, the tragic bushfires and now the pandemic have clearly made that document’s predictions irrelevant in the current economic environment.

“I don’t want to sound negative but the current mayor’s leadership in this space has gone on holiday: she talks about promoting Eurobodalla’s distinct points of difference from coastal competitors and continuing to ensure the economic viability of visitor information centres, but in January she announced she was closing both centres without a concrete plan for the next steps, and at a time when our tourism operators and businesses are direly in need of help and support.

“Current council tourism and sports events sponsorships of $5000-$8000 are a start, but for most tourism and events operators struggling to stay afloat and pay their bills, it’s a drop in the ocean. This issue needs far greater consultation and leadership which I will bring, drawing on local input and expertise, as well as other south coast councils’ input, that of umbrella industry groups and of course, the NSW Government and Destination NSW.

I’ll begin with ESC staff experts in the tourism and business support functions, before reaching out to convene a round-table with the tourism sector and small business operators in our shire, as well as with state and federal sector representatives,” he said.

Labor’s candidates –Maureen Searson in Batehaven; Matthew Findlay in Batemans Bay; Claire McAsh in Moruya; Deirdre Russack in Narooma; Jack Egan in Rosedale; and myself in Broulee – bring a solid understanding of the shire’s economy with a good mixture of local business, community and workplace experiences over many decades.

“We understand what a terrible blow the 2019-20 Christmas/New Year bushfires were for so many Eurobodalla businesses, and the COVID pandemic has not been kind to them either with many tourists either locked down, or too frightened to travel in case they were caught up in a new outbreak,” Mr Grace added.

*NB. Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber, the Narooma & District Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, the Mogo Village Business Chamber, the Moruya Business Chamber and the Tilba Chamber of Commerce.

Further information:    David Grace, Labor Mayoral candidate   M: 0466 487 844

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