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Tourism Sector Calls For More Wage Subsidies Amid COVID Cancellations

Tourism operators are calling for more wage subsidies and direct financial support, warning half-price flights will not be enough for their businesses to stay afloat.

Simon Westaway from the Australian Tourism Industry Council said subsidised airfares were a good start, but just one stepping stone needed to help the sector back onto its feet.

The industry lost about $90 billion last year, with hospitality and accommodation workers plunged into a free-fall of job losses.

Mr Westaway said the international border would still be closed for some time, and there were bound to be difficulties around coronavirus flare-ups, such as current outbreaks in Brisbane and Byron Bay.

Tourism operators have no control over lockdowns and domestic border arrangements.

"Our industry is right in the eye of the storm here," Mr Westaway told the ABC on Thursday.

He is calling for targeted support for the tourism sector, through one-off payments or payroll support.

"It doesn't necessarily need to be JobKeeper, but certainly, a type of wage subsidy arrangement is certainly a really clean way of doing it."

Byron Bay mayor Simon Richardson has floated the idea of reinstating JobKeeper payments for specific areas, after a coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of the Bluesfest music festival.

Mr Richardson said the cancellation would blow a $100 million hole in the local economy.

"I'd love if the federal government could look to see if they could do an area-specific exemption of winding back JobKeeper, or just continue it a little while, to allow a whole sector and a whole region to get back on its feet."