Relief for tourism operators in midst of coronavirus crisis
RELIEF for the region's beleaguered tourism operators has come in the form of a tax relief package.
The Federal Government has scrapped the Environmental Management Charge (EMC) - sometimes referred to as the reef tax - for operators, for the remainder of 2020.
The EMC is a charge on visitors to the reef, who pay $6.50 to tourism operators for trips over three hours and $3.25 per person for trips less than three hours. This contribution goes directly to managing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The government will provide additional funding over this period to support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), so it can continue to deliver its management of the reef.
The government's business stimulus package was greeted with a round of applause from Whitsunday tourism operators yesterday as Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley outlined the relief plan for tourism operators.
Minister Ley joined Member for Dawson George Christensen, in Cannonvale, as he hosted a 'roundtable' meeting of tourism operators, at the Whitsunday Marine Centre, to discuss a range of issues impacting the Whitsundays.
Ms Ley said the stimulus package was about protecting jobs and helping small business weather the storm.
"I was delighted to tell the room that as part of the package we will be waiving the environmental management charge affecting reef activities for a period, while maintaining reef funding," Ms Ley said.
"This was a proposal brought to me by the Reef Special Envoy and the Member for Dawson and I am pleased to see it come to fruition.
"The reef is incredibly important to many Australians and while there are some serious challenges for the reef in a world of changing climates, it still remains a natural wonder that is an incredible place to visit."
Member for Dawson George Christensen said the removal of the EMC charge would be welcomed by reef operators.
"These people care deeply about the reef and about showing it to the world," he said
"They do an outstanding job but they have been hit by a number of events over recent years and this will provide some relief across the industry."
Deputy Chair of Tourism Whitsundays Al Grundy said the decision would have a profound impact.
"It may seem a small thing, or a simple thing, but it will have a very big impact. This will be the difference between some people staying in business or not," he said
"If the business can stay open in some tough times it's much better than having people on the dole queue or being lost to the industry altogether."