Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese used a visit to the Blue Mountains to call for additional financial and workplace support for local tourism, which according to an industry spokesman is now "on its knees".
Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, hosted the meeting between Mr Albanese and Blue Mountains Tourism president, Jason Cronshaw, on Wednesday, October 6 at Echo Point, Katoomba. Echo Point is currently closed by Blue Mountains City Council due to the pandemic (but an announcement is expected later today on its reopening).
Mr Albanese said the backdrop was one of the best in the world, but the fact that it was empty was evidence of the devastating impact the Mountains' tourism sector has faced since the bushfires nearly two years ago.
"What this tourism sector here needs is more support, and the truth is that when JobSaver is removed, they will be pulling the rug out from an industry that's already really struggling," Mr Albanese said.
What this tourism sector here needs is more support, and the truth is that when JobSaver is removed, they will be pulling the rug out from an industry that's already really strugglingAnthony Albanese
"We need to provide ongoing support ... otherwise you'll just lose tourism operators, and you'll lose the skills from the industry as well.
"Two things are required; additional financial support to the tourism sector here, and support for skills and for the workforce, to make sure ... it can once again be the massive generator of income and jobs for Australia."
Ms Templeman said local businesses had been extraordinarily resilient and while eager to open up, that would also present challenges.
"Tourism absolutely underpins our local economy in the Blue Mountains, and not every business is going to rebound from the first day out of lockdown," Ms Templeman said.
"I also took Anthony to meet with Bakery Patisserie Schwarz owner, Nick Schwarz, in Wentworth Falls, because every village in the Mountains has a different tourist challenge.
"For some it will be not enough visitors, especially without overseas tourism, and for others it could be that they are overwhelmed with demand, particularly as small cafes and restaurants cope with space restrictions. And operators are definitely worried that there won't be the staff available to meet demand, given so many have left the sector while it was shut down."
Mr Cronshaw said since the Black Summer bushfires in 2019/20 the industry had had its "ups and downs, and obviously with a couple of COVID closures, the Blue Mountains tourist industry is now on its knees".
The Blue Mountains tourist industry is now on its kneesJason Cronshaw, Blue Mountains Tourism
Mr Cronshaw operates bus and coach company Fantastic Aussie Tours, which owns the long-running Blue Mountains Explorer Bus fleet. The fleet is currently parked indefinitely due to the downturn.