COVID-19 will have an impact on the Orana economy. The true extent of economic impact is mostly speculative at this stage but will to be substantial. RDA Orana has been working on quantifying the impacts for the region and undertook a business impact survey, during April and May, to which 438 businesses participated.
The tourism industry is one of the most severely impacted as a result of government shutdowns and travel restrictions. The industry has been growing steadily with an annual visitor growth rate of 4.6 per cent. However, as a result of the ongoing pandemic, the industry has reported a 90 per cent decline in activities, with supporting sectors like accommodation and food services, sports and recreation, and retail taking the biggest hit. It was welcome news to hear this week that travel restrictions will be eased and RDA Orana is now working with stakeholders in the sector to support recovery.
One of the key issues brought up in this survey was the lack of understanding with regards to what is available for businesses. Many businesses are unsure about what they are or are not eligible for in terms of both State and Federal Government assistance. Businesses highlighted the need for more detailed information, preferably industry-specific, and how to access help. Unlike larger enterprises, small local businesses struggle to afford professional financial advice and services. Having a centrally located information source for easy access, and better simplification of information will make it easier for these businesses.
Many businesses are struggling with how best to manage the situation with employees working twice as hard to maintain safety. Businesses have had to adopt new safety measures, provide safety materials for their workers and venture into the online space. The uncertainty is making it difficult for companies to plan, with many of them losing revenue and feeling the pressure.
Many local businesses in the region have employed migrant workers, who fill in the labour gap. However, as a result of COVID-19, many employers have had to stand down their employees, risking losing them in the long run. Businesses are worried about being able to access the right skilled workforce to rebuild after the crisis.
Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat during this period. The businesses were not prepared for now, and do not feel adequately prepared for what is to come next.There is a need for intervention from Government bodies, industry groups, RDA Orana, and other significant shareholders to guide local businesses through this time, and to help them prepare for what comes next.
There is a gap in information with regards to the business opportunities available within the region during this time.Local businesses rely on their existing business relationships which have been greatly stressed by the ongoing pandemic. Our businesses have voiced a need for local opportunities to be highlighted and promoted. Local bodies can assist businesses by helping them locate local business opportunities.
Even though the COVID-19 crisis has created great concern across the region, country and the world, we recognize that it might be an opportunity for the region. There is an opportunity for the relocation and decentralization of skilled labour, that was previously a challenge for the region. With the pandemic, we expect to see some skilled workers relocating into the area to take up once unoccupied jobs. We also have an opportunity for skills development, with promoting workforce development in sectors where jobs are available.
RDA Orana is a not for profit business that receives federal funding to support regional and economic development initiatives across the Orana region. Our mission is to support sustainable economic growth through the provision of regional intelligence that creates connections and collaborations, supports investment decisions by business and government, and that encourages the development of our workforce. To find out more visit rdaorana.org.au
Regional Recovery with RDA Orana is a series of columns produced by RDA Orana looking at the impacts of COVID-19 and the road to recovery for our community.
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