The NSW Budget 2020/2021 includes a lifeline to our hospitality industry with the announcement of the Out & About program.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet (pictured below with Premier Gladys Berejiklian) has allocated $500 million toward the initiative aimed to encourage residents to spend at on-premise establishments as well as arts and tourism.
Hospitality, the arts and tourism have been the worst impacted industries as a result of measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Venues have experienced the hit in many ways from lockdown restrictions, patron quotas and social distancing to psychologically COVID-wary or vulnerable people not prepared to enter establishments where people congregate.
Bodies such as the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW has welcomed the move to support its hotel members struggling in the wake of the pandemic.
“Pubs right across the state are still operating under significant trading restrictions, so this is the perfect reason to get down to your local pub, show your support and let NSW Government shout you a burger or a schnitzel,” said John Whelan, chief executive officer, AHA NSW.
From January, each of NSW’s 6 million residents over the age of 18 will receive four $25 vouchers made available through the ServicesNSW App to spend across NSW, although alcohol, gaming and cigarettes are excluded.
Establishments will be required to be COVID-safe and register for participation.
The NSW Government intends to run a trial in the CBD in December with the program formally launched in the new year.
“This program is ambitious and the first of its kind in Australia. The Government will run a pilot scheme to make sure we can iron out any issues before launching Out & About across NSW in the new year,” said Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello.
Wes Lambert from the Australian Restaurant and Caterer’s Association said, “2020 has been a year full of immense challenges for the restaurant, café and catering sector and this budget recognises just how hard our sector has been hit by the pandemic”, Mr Lambert said.
It follows on the heels of a similar model adopted in the UK before their second wave and consequent lockdown. The UK’s Eat Out to Help Out program encouraged residents to eat at their local establishments and received a 50 % discount when spending up to £10 from Monday to Wednesday. Establishments charged the discount to Treasury.
Over August after the UK had been in lockdown and venues closed, the Government spent £522 million of taxpayers’ money on more than 100 million of these subsidised meals. Unfortunately, the UK had not achieved the same level of control of the virus, and the initiative is partly blamed for encouraging people to congregate in venues fuelling the second wave. Nevertheless, it was successful in getting all-important cash flowing through the tills and keeping small hospitality businesses ticking over while supporting jobs.
Meanwhile, industry bodies are calling on the Victorian Government to follow NSW’s lead. The Victorian Government has offered 120,000 $200 vouchers as part of a regional tourism stimulus, but it requires an investment of $400 which some consider steep in the pandemic environment and will only indirectly support regional hospitality establishments and neglects metropolitan businesses.
“While cash support and grants are welcome, the best way to get the economy back on track is to get people spending, and ‘Out and About’ is perfectly targeted to do that.” Wes Lambert said.