The Uluru resort operator said it was heartbreaking to stand down staff but it hoped to re-hire many of them. (ABC audience contributor Eleni Curry)
The largest tourism accommodation provider for Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park says it has stood down hundreds of staff in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia has closed most Uluru resort operations
- The company says it has stood down almost 400 staff amid the pandemic
- The company says the shutdown could cost $40 million if it lasts 12 months
Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, the company that operates the Uluru resort on behalf of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, said it usually employed more than 1,000 workers across the site.
“These are unprecedented times and we don’t have a playbook for this,” chief executive Grant Hunt said.
“I just find this gut wrenching, it’s heartbreaking.
“The individual toll that this will take on people and families is absolutely immense.
“I just encourage people to have compassion and to see the human side of all this.”
Mr Hunt said more than 500 staff had lost their jobs — 363 of these workers remained employees but were stood down, 118 seasonal workers resigned and the rest were made redundant.
“Most of them will remain on site for the duration and we’re hoping to bring them back as soon as we possibly can,” Mr Hunt said.Advertisements
Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia owns most of the tourist accommodation at the doorstep of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. (Supplied)
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Shutdown could cost $40 million, resort says
Voyages operates most of the accommodation in the town of Yulara, which is on the doorstep of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.
The park closed to visitors last week and strict COVID-19 border controls mean anyone arriving in the NT must self-quarantine for 14 days.
Mr Hunt said many of his staff held visas that were ineligible under subsidy schemes such as the JobKeeper payments.
“They’ve got nowhere to go, this is their home — so we’re trying to make it as comfortable and easy for them as possible,” he said.
Mr Hunt said the resort had also waived rent payments for remaining staff and commercial operators at the site.
He said the redundancies were necessary because the company anticipated the recovery from the pandemic would take years.
“For us this is a multi-year recovery,” he said.
“It will take us a very long time to get back to the sorts of occupancies and staffing levels that we were seeing prior to the crisis.”
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Hundreds of Uluru resort staff have been stood down as the tourism and hospitality industry responds to the pandemic. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)
Mr Hunt said he welcomed the federal JobKeeper subsidy and had registered for it, but that it was just one of the things needed to keep the business afloat during the pandemic.
“Because this is about cashflow and survival now, this about solvency in the end,” he said.
“If this lasts 12 months, this has probably got a cost for us of about $40 million.”
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said it was extremely difficult to predict the precise impact the pandemic would have on the tourism market.
“We had advice [last month] that we were going to lose 10 per cent of our tourism market,” Mr Gunner said.
“I think we’ve lost 100 per cent of our tourism market, that’s just in a matter of weeks.”
Last month Voyages said it had implemented several measures to ensure residents from the nearby Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu — who often travel to the resort town to buy groceries and sell art — were separated from tourists.
The company said it had temporarily stood down 11 Mutitjulu residents employed at the resort, who had retained their positions with support.
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