Northern Territory cattle and tourism pioneer Peter Severin dies aged 93

Cattle and tourism pioneer Peter Severin has died aged 93, at the remote station and famous roadhouse near Uluru he established more than six decades ago.

Mr Severin’s family announced his death on Saturday morning in a statement they said was made “with profound sadness”.

“He was a true gentleman, devoted son, loving husband and proud father,” the statement said.

“Pete passed away peacefully in his 94th year, surrounded by those he loved, and those that loved him, at Curtin Springs Station, his home for over 65 years.”

In a social media post, Hospitality NT described the long-serving publican as a “true Territory pioneer and pioneer of Central Australia”.

The Severin roadhouse, built on the working cattle station first leased by the family in 1956, was among the isolated area’s first tourism spots opened outside Alice Springs.

The Severin family at their Curtin Springs property in the 1960s.(Supplied)

From early beginnings selling petrol and scones to a growing stream of visitors, Mr Severin and his wife Dawn are credited with opening the region up to domestic and international tourism.

In 1963, Mr Severin installed the controversial chain rope on Uluru, which tourists used to climb the rock until it was closed in 2019 in accordance with the wishes of traditional owners and custodians.

He was awarded the Northern Territory Tourism Minister’s Perpetual Trophy in 2017, in recognition of his contributions to the industry.

The family said they would be sharing highlights of Mr Severin’s life and holding a service in Alice Springs after taking time to mourn his death privately.

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Regional tourism growth sees rise in Airbnb listings, but its leaving renting families high and dry

With a regional tourism boom and the potential for greater financial returns, more property owners in some regional centres are listing their homes for short-term holiday accommodation instead of leasing to long-term tenants.

In just a 15-minute period Leisa McKinnon’s phone goes off twice: a five-night booking and a three-night booking for her Airbnb property.

“There it goes,” Ms McKinnon said.

She is accustomed to her phone’s “ping” as guests book her two-bedroom, one-bathroom brick home in the middle of Mount Gambier in South Australia’s south-east.

Since she started on Airbnb in July 2019, the number of available properties in town on the short-term rental platform has swelled from 88 to more than 150.

This story is echoed throughout regional Australia with property owners opting to rent their homes on sites like Airbnb instead of hosting long-term tenants.

While it is good news for regional tourism, real estate professionals say the success of short-term rentals presents a catch-22 when it comes to Australia’s rental crisis.

Lisa McKinnon’s property is simple but couldn’t be busier with guests.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

High demand for rentals in regions

Mount Gambier’s Maddie Provis spent most of her pregnancy applying for rental properties.

After eight months of applying for more than 50 rentals, she and her partner made a public plea on Facebook in desperation.

“I posted the picture of me and my partner and explained our situation,” Ms Provis said.

“I did feel a little bit of guilt when there were comments about people that had been looking longer than us and had established families.”

A woman rests against a walkway fence surrounded by lush green trees on a sunny day.
Maddie Provis was looking for rental accommodation for eight months.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

In Mount Gambier demand for rental properties is at a record high.

Local real estate agent Jessie Little said it was difficult for agents to turn perfectly good applicants like Ms Provis away.

“There’s no reason people are missing out and that’s the hardest thing to do deal with,” Ms Little said.

“It’s not as though we can even give feedback … it’s genuinely we just do not have enough property.”

An aerial photo shows the edge of a large blue lake with a green ridge and rows of houses behind it.
South Australia’s second largest city, Mount Gambier continues to grow.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

President of the Real Estate Institute Adrian Kelly said the rental shortage in regional areas had worsened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was certainly [an issue] pre-pandemic and it’s only been exacerbated now because of the pandemic,” Mr Kelly said.

A woman stands with a pram looking at a large glass window with properties for sale pinned to it.
New rental listings for family homes in Mount Gambier are attracting 50-plus applicants.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Regional tourism boom

Mr Kelly said one of the contributing factors for the rental shortage was the growth in regional tourism and short-term rental listings.

“For every property that gets put onto the short-term market it’s taken away from the long-term market,” he said.

“That obviously affects tenants both locally and those wanting to move to the area.”

Mr Kelly said an owner renting out their property for short-term accommodation, it was often a financial decision.

“What we are finding is that some property owners are preferring to head down that path because it helps to cover the increasing costs of the outgoings — particularly things like land tax, which seems to go up a good five or 10 per cent every year.”

Airbnb’s country manager for Australia and New Zealand Susan Wheeldon did not comment on the impact its short-term accommodation was having on the private rental market, but said Airbnb hosts were supporting regional economies.

Young people drinking by pool
Airbnb says its regional hosts are “helping to drive tourism recovery” following the COVID-19 travel restrictions of 2020.(Unsplash: Eric Nopanen)

“Local hosts on Airbnb are really keen to make a big contribution to their region’s economic recovery by rolling out their welcome mats and bringing tourist dollars to the area,” Ms Wheeldon said.

“People have been using Airbnb to find affordable and unique family-friendly getaways to spend quality time with loved ones — particularly in places like Mount Gambier — which are within driving distance of major cities.”

She said the company was focused on boosting the country’s tourism following a “challenging year for everyone”.

Increased competition among renters

In Dunsborough, Western Australia, Anna Barr cannot help but wonder what impact the growth in short-term rental accommodation is having on her living situation.

She is preparing to move in with her ex-husband after being unable to secure accommodation.

Anna Barr
After struggling to find a rental, Anna Barr is moving back in with her ex-husband.(ABC South West WA: Georgia Loney)

Ms Barr has been competing with another 50 families all applying for only a handful of homes in the town.

Near Margaret River, Dunsborough has always been popular with tourists, especially during COVID-19.

“If we didn’t have all the tourists coming down throughout the whole year last year, we may have had a few more rental properties,” Ms Barr said.

Big impact on affordability

Real Estate Australia chief economist Nerida Conisbee said the shortage of properties was causing rental prices to rise.

“Affordability is getting a bit of a problem in some locations,” Ms Conisbee said.

In Dunsborough, real estate agent Joe White said he was especially concerned about lower-income earners.

“There probably is going to be a welfare issue for six months until the market sorts this thing out.”

Joe White
Dunsborough real estate agent Joe White.(ABC South West WA: Georgia Loney)

Ms Conisbee said the factors that were causing the rental shortage were not likely to go away any time soon.

The solution?

Mr Kelly said the short-term answer was to build more homes.

“Whilst that sounds very simplistic, that’s the only thing that’s going to solve the problem and make sure there’s enough supply to suit everybody,” he said.

Mount Gambier housing development
There is also a construction backlog in Mount Gambier’s housing developments.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Mr Kelly realises the time and energy involved with building a home puts some investors off.

“It can take up to six to 12 months before you even get a shovel in the ground, but you need to start somewhere,” he said.

“If the building process can start today … then that would encourage more people to build those properties because the return would be there in the end.”

Mr Kelly said it would be nice to reach an equilibrium with enough properties for the short- and long-term markets in regional town to meet everyone’s needs.

“But it’s certainly a long way off doing that at the moment,” he said.

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ASEAN tourism fears Lunar New Year chill with borders closed

BANGKOK — Southeast Asia’s tourism industry is working with governments to make the most of what is likely to be a subdued Lunar New Year by promoting domestic travel and shopping, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shut out visitors from abroad.

The Asia-Pacific region saw overseas arrivals drop by 300 million, or 84%, in 2020 compared with the previous year, according to the World Tourism Organization. That was the largest drop of any region in the world. With fresh waves of the deadly virus sweeping many countries in Southeast Asia, the slowdown has stretched into 2021.

Chinese tourists traditionally flock to the region’s the region’s hotels, restaurants, and souvenir stores during Lunar New Year, bringing their wallets with them. This year, however, a dearth of overseas travelers has prompted tourism-related businesses to hunt for customers closer to home.

In Thailand, many discounts are available on hotel websites and through booking services. A suite with a mountain view at Courtyard Khaoyai by Paka, a five-star hotel in a highland national park in Thailand, was listed on Agoda for 6,493 baht ($217) for two nights during Lunar New Year, nearly 50% off the hotel’s usual rate.

“In a change from non-COVID times, our data shows us that beach and countryside spots are more popular than capital city breaks and high-energy destinations,” said Timothy Hughes, vice president for corporate development at Agoda.

This year, for the first time, the Lunar New Year will be a public holiday in Thailand. The government added another special holiday in April, July, and September to give people more long weekends in hopes of encouraging domestic travel.

The government launched the “We Travel Together” program in July 2020 to revive the moribund tourism industry. Thai tourists only have to pay 60% of normal room rates, with the government subsidizing the rest. The government will also cover 40% of the cost of airline tickets.

Financial authorities allocated 22.4 billion baht for the program in 2020. Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith has vowed that the program will be sufficiently funded to continue this year. Hotels are counting on it — and adding their own discounts to attract more domestic guests despite the extra cost of hygiene measures. The government is eager to support the industry, as tourism accounted for roughly a fifth of the kingdom’s gross domestic product before the pandemic.

But these efforts will not make up for the lack of Chinese visitors. Thailand’s consumer spending over the Lunar New Year will drop 22% to 44.9 billion baht, according to Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

The second wave of the coronavirus, which swept through Thailand starting in mid-December, discouraged people from going out or traveling, and the government and companies have been unable to create promotional events to attract crowds. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration decided not to host Lunar New Year celebrations in Yaowarat, the capital’s Chinatown.

A traditional Chinese lion dance is performed during Lunar New Year celebrations in Bangkok’s Chinatown in 2019.

  © Reuters

Retail giant The Mall Group will spend 120 million baht on its Lunar New Year promotional campaign, unchanged from last year. The company will offer special discounts and hold a prize drawing. But it appears it will not hire Thai pop stars to visit stores as it did in 2020 because a throng of fans would make social distancing difficult.

Supermarket chain Tesco Lotus, meanwhile, is targeting people who have opted to celebrate quietly at home with their families. It is offering free delivery for Lunar New Year offering set priced over 100 baht.

The Singapore tourism industry, which welcomed 2.4 million visitors in Jan. and Feb. 2020, is also banking on spending by local residents — many of whom would travel abroad in normal times — offering “staycation” packages and takeout food while maintaining social distancing measures.

The iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, for example, offers a package that comes with a Chinese New Year-themed lunch. Many hotels are offering New Year takeout and delivery meals in hopes of attracting business from those who prefer to stay at home.

Many hotels and related businesses are also taking advantage of the Singapore government’s stimulus package. In December, the government launched a travel subsidy campaign that offers all adult Singaporeans a digital voucher worth 100 Singapore dollars ($75) that can be used at local hotels, tourist attractions and other venues.

A view of the Marina Bay Sands, one of Singapore’s most iconic locations. Many hotels in the city-state are offering takeout and delivery meals for Lunar New Year to make up for the loss of tourists.

  © Reuters

Regional travel agencies, such as China-based and Indonesia-based Traveloka, have partnered with the Singapore Tourism Board to handle bookings for voucher users. According to the government agency, 300,000 people participated in the subsidy program in the first month. The campaign will run through June.

Indonesia has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, and its tourism sector has taken a battering as the country closed its borders to most overseas arrivals. Foreign tourist arrivals were down 75% on the year in 2020, with occupancy at starred hotels averaging 41% in December, a nearly 20 percentage point drop from 2019.

Many hotels in the archipelago introduced a “pay now, stay later” system during the pandemic, allowing people to pay room charges in advance at a discounted price for a later stay.

“The program was initially designed at the beginning of the pandemic, hoping that COVID-19 could be overcome by the end of the year,” said Hariyadi Sukamdani, chairman of the Indonesian Hotels & Restaurants Association. “However, many of our members have [had to] extend their stay … period until 2022,” he added. Some members have introduced package deals offering airline tickets and hotel rooms at discounted prices.

Like many other hotels, Tauzia Hotel Group, which operates more than 60 hotels across Indonesia, implemented a pay now, stay later program. “We will [continue] the program until March,” said Irene Janti, the company’s marketing director. “But after that, we are still undecided on whether we should extend it. On the one hand, there is hope that vaccines can boost people’s confidence in traveling, but on the other hand, government policies are still difficult to predict for us to take strategic policies,” Janti said.

Additional reporting by Kentaro Iwamoto in Singapore and Shotaro Tani in Jakarta.

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Goulburn Mulwaree Council focuses on tourism | Goulburn Post

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The Goulburn Mulwaree Council has put a strong focus on increasing tourism offerings in the region, after confirming three applications to be put forward for round five of the Building Better Regions Fund. READ ALSO: A joint application with the Upper Lachlan Shire Council for the Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail will be put forward, along with an application to complete the Shibetsu Gardens in Victoria Park. The council will also apply for $2 million to build a new community centre, at a site to be determined. Mayor Bob Kirk said the three projects were fantastic and had been longer term initiatives. “We are hopeful of gaining funding to get them underway,” he said. “The Shibetsu Garden and Rail Trail would attract visitation from right around NSW and the country in my opinion, while the Community Centre is a an incredibly important project for our local community. “I have long been a strong supporter of the Rail Trail, which will be a game changer for our local economy, attracting cyclists from all over the country who will visit and stay in our region and spend money that will help our local businesses create more jobs.” The first stage of the Shibetsu Gardens was completed in November 2019, and jointly opened by mayor Bob Kirk and Shibetsu mayor Yuji Makino to mark the 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship. Completion of the project is estimated to cost $500,000, with the council applying for 50 per cent of this funding through the Building Better Regions Fund. Funds would be utilised for further pathways, plantings, gazebos and picnic areas, with the highlight being construction of small waterfalls and a koi pond. The Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail will create a 54 kilometre cycling and walking trail along the disused railway corridor between Goulburn and Crookwell. A feasibility study on the project estimates up to 30,000 new day trippers per year would visit the region to utilise the rail trail, while an additional $9.4 million dollars a year would be injected into to the economy. The council will apply for $7.1 million for the Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail, with this funding to be subject to receiving the balance of the 50% from the NSW Government. It is noted that no formal application has been made to the NSW Government at this time. The Goulburn Community Centre would cater to many community organisations, along with the council’s youth programs and leisure link services for people with physical or intellectual disabilities. The council has committed to $2 million for the project, and is seeking the same amount of funding from the Federal Government. A site for the centre is still to be determined. Applications to the Federal Government Building Better Regions Fund close on March 5.


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North Stradbroke Island residents dig in to oppose Aboriginal corporation tourism project with no-appeal status

Protesters on North Stradbroke Island have set up a protest camp on a development site at Point Lookout to oppose construction of the Whale on the Hill project, which was due to start earlier this week.

The Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) is the body driving the project — a $3 million open-air structure to house a 15-metre eastern humpback whale skeleton that washed ashore in 2011.

QYAC has previously said their vision was for the skeleton installation to become a “landmark tourism attraction” as the only complete whale skeleton to be displayed in Australia.

But there is staunch opposition to the project from both Indigenous and non-indigenous residents, who say QYAC did not consult locals.

QYAC declined the ABC’s request for comment on this story.

Quandamooka elder Maureen Myers said she believed QYAC’s plans were not representative of what both Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents wanted.

Quandamooka elder Maureen Myers says QYAC do not understand the sentiments of island locals.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

“We need tourists, but not this way,” Ms Myers said.

“You’ve got all young people and people who don’t even live here deciding on this.

“It hurts so much — [QYAC are] descendants, yes, but they don’t understand because they’ve never lived here.

“[Non-Indigenous] people at the point … they understand more than our own people — it’s heartbreaking.”

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Protesters have sent up tents at North Stradbroke Island to stop the construction of a whale education centre(Supplied: Gary Tippo)

Ms Myers said she feared the development would have a domino effect.

“We don’t want to see it looking like the Gold Coast, or the north coast, with cement buildings.”

Traditional owner Dale Ruska is among a core group of protestors who have been maintaining a permanent presence at the site since Tuesday.

A glimpse of beachfront through trees atop sand dunes
Locals say visitors to the island don’t want it looking like the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

“This is without a doubt culturally inappropriate, and we’ve had contact with other Aboriginal groups in the state. The whale for them is a very sacred being, and it’s actually their totem,” Mr Ruska said.

“The heritage importance as well as the environmental importance of this place is really significant.

“We’re willing to remain here with the aim to ensure that the … proposed extravagant, architecturally designed coffin to house the remains of a whale that died a very traumatic death does not occur.”

Mr Ruska said protesters were willing to stand in front of bulldozers to stop the construction and were prepared to be arrested.

Tents and signs erected at Point Lookout.
Protesters have set up tents at Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island off Brisbane in a bid to stop construction of a whale education centre.(Supplied: Gary Tippo)

In a statement, Queensland police said they were aware of the protest, but did not reveal whether it had been the subject of an official complaint.

State Planning Minister Steven Miles said he supported the project going ahead.

“Like every community, you can’t expect that a hundred per cent of them are all going to have the same view,” he said.

“In general, I think that’s a great project and will be great for the island.”

A young woman painting a sign
The protest is being led by Quandamooka families who say they have been left out of local decision-making.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

Project has no-appeal status

QYAC was awarded a ‘Ministerial Infrastructure Designation’ for the Whale on the Hill project, which streamlined planning processes for the centre and meant its approval could not be appealed by residents.

Protesters at the site said they had been left with no legal way to appeal the construction and feared the project would destroy the undeveloped headland.

A petition lodged last August to the then-state planning minister Cameron Dick, calling on him to repeal the ministerial designation, attracted 3,000 signatures.

Tent protest
Locals have occupied the site of the Whale on the Hill project.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

In response, Mr Dick wrote that he was satisfied all appropriate environmental assessments and consultation processes had been followed, and refused to repeal the special planning status.

Mr Ruska said the designation had stripped them of their right to be consulted.

“The whole process to date has been totally scandalous,” he said.

“There’s been no proper engagement, no proper inclusion, it’s been more-so about exclusion.”

John Truman stands in sun wearing a hat at Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island.
North Stradbroke business owner John Truman says the QYAC project isn’t wanted by Port Lookout locals.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

It is a view shared by Point Lookout business owner and resident John Truman.

“It should never have come to this, where there’s a camp out and a tent city here,” he said.

Mr Truman said he believed tourists came to the island to enjoy its natural beauty.

“By building this, you’ll lose what you have and what people come here for in the first place.”

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Queensland Coast bags ‘3 coveted favorite Aussie beach titles’

We couldn’t deny that Australia is home to the best beaches around the world, and Aussies might find it hard to choose among this array. Yet, one sight stood out the most as it still pulls the country with its irresistible charms. That is the Queensland’s Coast.

When it comes to a sun and fun escape, Port Douglas has emerged as Australia’s favorite beach destination. This was after data was obtained exclusively by an Australian media from the Travel Reimagined survey for 2021 by Luxury Escapes.

Being the gateway to the famous Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, this holiday hotspot was voted into the No.1 spot from the survey of 6000 Aussie travellers who were asked: ‘What is your favorite beach holiday destination?’

Upon gathering data, the beach from Queensland’s Far North was immediately declared the winner, dubbing it with 23 per cent of votes.

According to Jason Shugg, Luxury Escape’s chief customer officer, the beach is a destination that already “has everything” saying it is “perfect for couples or families, the Great Barrier Reef right there, rainforests and amazing beaches on your doorstep, and plenty of recently-renovated hotels and resorts.”

Meanwhile, as per survey results, the Queensland Coast was closely followed by Noosa in the Sunshine Coast, with 21 per cent of votes, and holiday favorite the Gold Coast in third place with 16 per cent of votes.

Mr. Shugg added that the result is to no one’s surprise as Queensland is home to the top three, considering the booking records with perfectly reflects the survey results. “Despite border closures, Queensland holiday destinations have been extremely popular, with Port Douglas, Far North Queensland, Noosa and the Sunshine Coast all heavily booked and deals selling out very quickly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Byron Bay also unsurprisingly bagged the fourth place with 14 per cent of votes, however, Mr. Shugg warns travellers may have trouble booking a holiday there over the summer months.

He said “You can probably tell from the flurry of Instagram activity, but Byron Bay is practically fully booked from now until February and will likely continue well into next year. Savvy travellers are now heading slightly north to Kingscliff where accommodation is still readily available.”

Among the placers are New South Wales’, Jervis Bay on the South Coast, famous for its bone-white sand, came in sixth place with 6 per cent of the votes. Broome was the only Western Australian beach to make the top eight, with a fifth-place spot and 12 per cent of the votes. Lorne in Victoria — a beloved surf town along the iconic Great Ocean Road — came in seventh with 5 per cent of votes, and South Australia’s spectacular Fleurieu Peninsula came in eighth, with 4 per cent of votes.

According to the report that was already launched, despite the disruption of the tourism industry due to COVID-19, the future travelling is still promising for the year 2021.

‘Booming season’: Tourism bright spot in Mackay Whitsundays

While border shutdowns crippled Queensland’s tourism industry last year, one Eungella operator says business has been booming since the second half of 2020.

Eungella Chalet manager Tess Ford said while the state lockdown in May was tough, things had been looking up for the mist-shrouded tourism hot spot ever since.

“A lot of people during that time were locked down,” Ms Ford said.

“But as Queensland started to open up again, the first weekend that we could actually let people eat in here, we did 300 meals.

“We were having to ask people to leave so we could fill the table again.

“People were so sick of being cooped up that they were like, ‘Oh my god let’s get out’.”

Eungella Chalet. Picture: Melanie Whiting

This trend continued over the Christmas break, with the chalet serving up about 350 meals on a good day.

Ms Ford said international border closures meant tourists from the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane had opted to explore their own backyards rather than go overseas.

And even Mackay visitors – who had previously been difficult to attract to Eungella – had decided to make the drive up, she said.

“I have had people come up to the bar and say ‘I’ve lived in Mackay for 20 years and have never been here’,” Ms Ford said.

“As far as I’m concerned, here at the chalet it’s a holistic approach in that if people walk in the door here, it’s my job to tell them about things to do in Eungella.

“I think last year was a bit of a booming season.”

More stories:

Residents propose riverfront attraction for Finch Hatton

Pioneer Valley pub up for sale, friendly ghosts included

Next steps in making Pioneer Valley bike trail a reality

The rolling green hills of Eungella. Picture: Mackay Tourism

The rolling green hills of Eungella. Picture: Mackay Tourism

But while Eungella could be considered a bright spot for the region, places like the Whitsundays continue to struggle.

Airlie Beach’s Backpackers by the Bay hostel co-owner Carolyn Upton said “huge numbers” of international tourists were leaving the area because of a lack of jobs.

Mrs Upton said JobKeeper should “absolutely” be extended again.

“Most of the (Whitsunday) businesses had a reasonably good end of year from the September school holidays onwards,” she said.

“But what normally happens during the wet season is visitor numbers drop off again.”

Earlier this week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it would be a “mistake” for the Federal Government to end JobKeeper before international borders were able to reopen.

“Regions such as Cairns, the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast that rely on tourism will be worst hit,” she said.

“I’m calling on the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, to consider extending JobKeeper for the industries doing it tough.”

Meanwhile, Dawson MP George Christensen is continuing his push for not only an extension to the JobKeeper program for struggling tourism operators, but greater access to the Federal Government’s JobMaker program.

He said this would mean tourist operators could hire new employees to further rebuild their industry.

Mr Christensen wrote to the Treasurer two weeks ago outlining the measures he was advocating for Whitsunday tourism operators.

“I’ve been in regular contact with tourism businesses and their representative groups about the devastating effects of border closures, both international and domestic, due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Dawson MP said.

“The reality is that many tourism businesses are still struggling financially, and the latest closure to NSW just before Christmas was devastating for them.”

Mr Christensen said his letter to the Treasurer requested two things – a targeted extension of the JobKeeper program for businesses that are still experiencing a 30 per cent downturn or more, and for tourism businesses who have workers on JobKeeper to also have access to JobMaker.

JobMaker is the incentive program to hire young jobseekers aged 16 to 35.

Currently, a business cannot apply for JobMaker while they are on JobKeeper.

Earlier this week, Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm said any further extension of the JobKeeper payment should be targeted to ensure it is channelled to those who need it.

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Collapse in booking lead times sparks concern in NT tourism industry

THE collapse in booking lead times has the Territory’s tourism industry holding its breath about the prospects of a strong dry season tourism rebound.

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Queensland’s Next ‘Big Thing’, Literally

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A new tourist attraction has been unveiled in the town of Calen, just north of Mackay. It has been dubbed Australia’s latest big thing: a pair of Big Thongs.

This new spot has now joined the prestigious list of major attractions in North and Central Queensland. The Big Mango in Bowen, the Big Bull in Rockhampton, the Big Cassowary in Mission Beach and the Big Easel in Emerald, are among these ‘hugely’ famous destinations. 

According to Publican Gavin Butlin, or is more locally known as Butto, a group of mates were inspired to create the thongs as a way to increase tourism rate for a small town located on the Bruce Highway.

He said, “We had to come up with a way to get some tourists to pull in Calen. We were watching the caravans going up and down the highway and thought, ‘How do we get them in here?”

Numerous ideas have been pitched-in before the group finally settled on a big pair of thongs.

Mr Butlin added “Lionel Knott, who does art, he went touring around the world a couple of years ago and left Australia in a pair of thongs. He came back in the same pair of thongs. His feet had nearly worn through the thongs when he got back to Australia. So over a few beers, me and him decided to build a big pair of thongs.”

At an Australia Day celebration – four months after the thongs were initially built measuring to 2.5 meters high – it was unveiled to the public.

Meanwhile, Mr Knott cited the new big thing was his first sculpture.

“They’re basically built from conveyor belt rubber … sourced locally from the mines,” he said. I had to cut them out with a Stanley knife, which was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It was hard material to work with.”

Mr Knott – a portrait artist and also works with kangaroo hides – said he was incredibly proud of the end result. “They’ll be hanging around for a long time yet. They’re built to last, like a good old pair of Aussie thongs.”

According to him, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, country pubs in small towns like Calen had struggled for years, thus he hoped his work would bring a boost to the area.

This goes with the fact that thongs, which are also known as flip-flops and jandals, were quintessentially Australian.

“I think thongs might be the oldest footwear in the world — they date back to the ancient Egyptians. Everyone in Australia has a pair of thongs, so that’s what we ran with.”

(Image source: ABC News)

budget: Budget sops that can send realty, aviation, tourism stocks soaring

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has over the past couple of months announced a slew of measures to revive demand for the Covid-hit sectors. While the focus of the forthcoming Budget is seen shifting from ‘growth’ to ‘repair’ and from ‘survival’ to ‘revival’, a host of Covid-hit sectors such as travel & tourism and real estate, among others, are eyeing budgetary sops.

For the hotel sector, the biggest wish has been to get an infrastructure status, as loans available to the asset-heavy sector attract as high as 15-20 per cent interest rate. The industry has sought that capital expenditure above Rs 25 crore be granted infrastructure status. At present, the status is granted only to hotels incurring capex of Rs 200 crore and above.

“If the hotel industry is granted infrastructure status, it can avail loans at lower interest rates for greenfield projects and will help them get water and electricity at industrial rates. It would be positive for Indian Hotels Company, Chalet Hotels, Lemon Tree Hotels, Jubilant FoodWorks and Speciality Restaurants,” Sharekhan said.

YES Securities said there are expectations that the government may allow business losses to be carried forward for up to 12 years, instead of eight years now, and there could be easing of tax for hotels from 34.94 per cent at present, to help increase cash flows. Hopes are also high of credit-guaranteed loans to the sector.

The tourism industry, as a whole, is asking for deferral of all statutory dues at the state government level such as excise fees, levies, taxes, power and water charges, and also deferral of renewal periods for all permits, licences, bank guarantees and security deposits across the tourism, travel, hospitality and aviation industry by 12 months.

Such a step would be positive for aviation companies SpiceJet and InterGlobe Aviation as well as hotels.

The tourism industry is also seeking to be brought under the ‘concurrent list’ by amending Schedule VII of the Constitution. “It would be ideal for each state to remove certain regulatory and licensing requirements that are currently in place to ease costs and the process of doing business,” said Sharekhan. “Thus, a more defined approach will be adhered to for the tourism sector, which would be driven by the unique needs of each state,” it said.

In the case of real estate, a Rs 2 lakh rebate is available on housing loan interest rates under Section 24 of the IT Act. There are expectations that this could be increased to at least Rs 5 lakh. If that happens, real estate stocks such as DLF, Godrej Properties, Prestige Estates, Brigade Enterprise, Ashiana Housing would be in focus.

It would also be positive for building material players such as Kajaria Ceramics, Century Plyboards, Astral Poly Technik and Supreme Industries, brokerages said.

The real estate sector is also seeking a GST waiver for a limited period. So far, the rate on under-construction properties is 5 per cent (minus the input tax credit benefit) for premium homes worth over Rs 45 lakh. The rate is 1 per cent for affordable homes (less than Rs 45 lakh).

The sector is also seeking a higher deduction under Section 80C up to Rs 1.5 lakh against principal repayment of housing loan, which is currently clubbed with other tax savings

“When it comes to investment in REITs, which have become a favoured route to raise funds for developers with renting-bearing commercial properties, an investment of up to Rs 50,000 should be allowed as a deduction under Section 80C. Also the holding period for REITs to qualify for long-term capital gain should be reduced from 36 months to 12 months, a step which will spur retail investment in value-creating instruments like REITs,” said Krish Raveshia, CEO at Azlo Realty.

Edelweiss said the government may look to support the bounce in the real estate sector by providing an extension to the PMAY-CLSS scheme, which is expiring at end of March 2021, which would also be in line with the government’s vision to provide Housing for All by 2022.

Meanwhile, public health has become very critical of late and further investments in public health infrastructure would be keenly awaited.

The vaccination rollout will be a very large project involving significant government expenditure. The outlay for this mega project and possible funding structure could become critical aspects of the budget, analysts said.

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