Staycations are being promoted in Perth while young people are being urged to become backpackers in their own state as WA’s border remains tightly closed to the rest of the world.

The State Government is pushing both messages and funnelling money into incentives in order to stimulate the hospitality, tourism and agricultural sectors as the impact of COVID-19 continues to bite.

It has launched a $500,000 ad campaign to encourage people in the city to staycation in Perth and fill empty rooms in hotels, some whose only regular visitors have been quarantine guests.

“We have so many hotels now across the city, great venues that people can stay in and many are new and they’ve got spare rooms and spare beds, and there’s many great offers on the table for people to book specials,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

The campaign coincides with the Government’s ‘Work and Wander out Yonder’ push to get people to travel to regional parts of the state as interstate and international visitors remain off the cards.

“We’re helping out in the regions right now,” Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said.

“If you can’t get a booking in the regions, it’s time to holiday in the city.”

Hotel sector pins hopes on campaign

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) said the campaign was welcome, claiming some CBD hotels were recording occupancy levels of less than 10 per cent.

Staycations in Perth city hotels are being encouraged under the new campaign.(Flickr: Pedro Szekely)

AHA WA CEO Bradley Woods said he was confident the plan would significant improve occupancy rates.

“We don’t have conventions and events, and other … events that would drive occupancy, and so the opportunity here is to reform these hotels into focusing on Western Australian tourism [and] holidays and leisure,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to peer out over the back fence and to look at Perth in a different way they’ve never seen before.”

Mr Papalia said deals and packages would be on offer as part of the campaign, including to some of Perth’s upcoming festivals.

Kimberley backpackers offered $500

The Government has also finalised its $3 million accommodation and travel scheme to encourage young people in the city to take up seasonal agricultural jobs in industries experiencing labour shortages.

Those jobs, like fruit picking or grains harvest, are usually filled by international backpackers.

Eligible workers will be given a $40 daily accommodation allowance for up to 12 weeks, with individual allowances totalling $3,360.

Thousands of dollars in incentives are on offer for West Australians to help with regional harvests.(ABC: Brad Marsellos)

There is also money available to cover travel to the regions — $150 for the Peel, South West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt, Mid West and Goldfields-Esperance regions, $350 for the Gascoyne and Pilbara, and $500 for people travelling all the way up to the Kimberley.

“This is about mobilising a seasonal workforce. We want West Australians to become backpackers for the next three months,” Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.

“And we are providing them with an incentive to do so.”

The scheme is aimed at agriculture, fisheries and food processing businesses.

Harvest workers in demand

Ms MacTiernan said COVID-19 had seen backpacker and seasonable worker numbers drop to less than half the usual number.

“We will need up to 7,000 people to get the harvest done,” she said.

“We need to backfill all of those backpackers who have gone home with West Australians.”

About 7,000 backpackers are needed in the regions, the WA Government says.(ABC Rural: Jon Daly)

The Premier said he was still advocating for the Commonwealth to extend the JobSeeker and JobKeeper schemes to some regional jobs as another incentive.

The rebate comes into force from September 21 and workers have to be employed for at least two weeks before being eligible.


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