It is no secret that bushfires and COVID-19 have left many small tourism businesses struggling.
Destination Wollongong, KPMG Wollongong and RDA Illawarra are teaming up to help them by launching a free visitor economy support program from June 15.
With tourist operators such as Steve Melchior, of Just Cruisin' Motorcycle Tours, saying they have had no business for three months Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh had a conversation with KPMG Wollongong managing partner Warwick Shanks who told him how a financial support initiative had run successfully in the Northern Territory.
Mr Shanks and Mr Sleigh considered how such an initiative might work locally. Their discussions resulted in an expanded program offering financial advice over four to six weeks followed by ongoing support.
"What we are talking about is a six-month mentoring process undertaken by Destination Wollongong executives to take people all the way through to the resumption of business," Ms Sleigh said.
"They will get great financial advice up-front and then we want to work with the businesses to help them expand and improve".
Mr Sleigh said supporting tourism and hospitality businesses is Destination Wollongong's primary concern. The partnership will not only provide small businesses with one-on-one access to a KPMG team. It will help them navigate through other challenges they encounter at the end of JobKeeper, stimulus payments and the resumption of rents and loan repayments.
"Any help I can get would be fantastic," Mr Melchior said.
"I've been trying now for two weeks to get a definitive answer from someone to say I can start business again. I am starting to get bookings again but whether or not I can do them legally I still don't know".
Mr Melchior said many businesses in the sector are struggling and any help will be gratefully received.
KPMG Wollongong partner Courtney West said the project team will draw on most up to date information form the firm's national and international network as well as their experience working with family businesses to improve operational and wealth outcomes. She said the free program will provide practical advice and insights to help business's survive, adapt and rebound in a sector that is a big employer.
"KPMG works a lot with family businesses and there are many insights we can bring from the work we do. We will be utilising resources not only from our Wollongong office but also the team we have been working closely with in the Northern Territory who have already delivered this".
RDA Illawarra has nominated tourism as one of five key regional priorities in its strategic plan. Chief executive Debra Murphy said she understands the challenges and the present need for support.
"We are in this together, and it's great to see this program give a helping hand," she said.
Mr Sleigh said there has never been a more important time to get industry specific advice. And for small businesses to be able to get free access the level of information KPMG can provide was extraordinary.
Mr Sleigh said there is an application form for business owners to fill out before June 10.
He said it was not an arduous application process.
"This is a genuine attempt to get businesses the tangible advice they need now," he said.
"One of the big things we are experiencing at the moment is confusion. So being able to access instant professional business advice is critical to making decisions about your livelihood and your future. This mentoring and support will be based on each individual businesses needs and requirements".
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