Tourism to take a hit from Echuca-Moama border closure

By Andrew Johnston

A CLOSURE of the NSW border is not a line between two towns - it's is cutting one community in half.

That is the message from Echuca Moama Tourism chief executive Kathryn Mackenzie, who said a border closure would be devastating for tourism.

“Our tourists don't come to Echuca or to Moama, you come to the twin communities, to spend time in the whole of the region,” she said.

“Shutting the border is a huge blow to that.”

Just weeks after the towns began to rebound from the initial COVID-19 shutdown, Ms Mackenzie said the school holiday period should be one of the strongest periods for the community.

“This is the second week of Victorian school holidays and the first week of NSW holidays,” she said.

“It's a major blow to the industry to have this happen at a time when we should see things booming.

“We have seen our local businesses do considerable work in order to prepare for this time. They've made sure their social distancing is in place, set up sanitising stations, and are implementing their COVID-safe plans.

“Now to be hit with news like this is terrible news for them.”

Ms Mackenzie said the industry was still trying to recover from the initial shutdown.

“We are looking for some good, common-sense decisions to be made,” she said.

“Having had good bookings, we have seen a lot of cancellations coming through now. Tourism before COVID was a million-dollar-a-day industry in this community, and we are still working to recover from the shutdown.”

C4EM chairman Geoff Kelly said he held concerns for those on the NSW side of the river.

“They've just started to build up again, and now they will have to wind back again,” he said.

“You can only hope for some common sense to be applied for the region, something that allows for those in border towns to continue to operate as they are.

“It's a bizarre situation where our town can potentially be divided just on the placement of a river.”

Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson has called for the extension of JobKeeper in relation to the closure.

“Unfortunately, this border closure between our two largest states means many hotels which were already on the brink will struggle even further,” he said.

“It shows the very real need for JobKeeper to be extended to protect the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector.”