AHA says lockdown extension devastating to operators and hospitality staff

July 7, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

The AHA has said that thousands of staff and hoteliers across the state are devastated and exhausted by the extension of the Sydney lockdown and state-wide restrictions.

AHA NSW CEO John Whelan said the hotel sector would proudly continue to play its role in preventing the spread of COVID, but needed certainty moving forward.

“The lockdown extension is devastating news for more than 50,000 Greater Sydney- based staff who are out of work for another week, as well as the broader NSW hotel industry which has operated under restricted trading conditions for more than 15 months and counting,” Mr Whelan said.

“Our staff have rent and bills to pay. Many are not eligible for government support and a third week with no work really hits hard.”

Mr Whelan queried that while country and regional NSW have had no cases, they are also facing an extra week of restrictions.

“Today’s lockdown extension is particularly hard to take when we are seeing the world open up. We appear to be going backwards – with community vaccination still months away at best.

“Looking ahead, we simply can’t afford another Sydney CBD quarantine COVID breach – the economic and mental health costs of the ensuing lockdown are just too great,” he said.

This follows calls from the nation’s peak tourism accommodation body on Tuesday calling for all states to follow the NSW Government’s policy change making vaccination compulsory for all staff working in quarantine hotels.

Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said the change comes as true hotel occupancy rates in Sydney actually hover around the two percent mark – without quarantine figures included.  

A NSW Public Health Order has been updated, mandating all staff in quarantine hotels must now be vaccinated, with at least with one injection by Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson said, “Vaccination has previously been available to quarantine hotel staff, but it has not been mandatory…

“With the National Cabinet announcement last Friday of a quarantine hotel program review, all state and territories should implement a similar order of mandatory vaccination for quarantine hotel workers if it is not in place already.”

Of Wednesday’s extension to lockdown, Mr Johnson described it as “another blow to an already dire situation”.

“Hotels are losing millions of dollars each week and have little support to keep paying the bills and to keep paying staff.  

“Hotels are already facing a skills shortage without international students and working holiday makers and retaining these experienced staff is crucial if we are to mount any kind of recovery.”  

He said quarantine business is the only thing keeping the struggling Sydney hotel market operating. 

“Sydney hotels are currently operating at 20 per cent occupancy, but that figure is misleading because the majority of guests are quarantined travellers,” he said. 

He noted that the figure will be halved again after 14 July, when the cap for international arrivals drops from 3,000 arrivals per week to 1500.

“Under the current lockdown most other Sydney hotels are closed or operating at less than 2 per cent occupancy, with most staff stood down,” he said. 

“The ones that have managed to stay open have seen a 98 per cent drop in revenue compared to this time last month.”

TAA continues to talk with the state government for extra support for these hotels. 

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