The hotel industry looks set to take a key role in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across Australia following a high-level meeting with officials leading Australia’s vaccination efforts yesterday.

AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson, alongside 30 other key business and industry group leaders, attended the meeting chaired by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“Today was the start of a process for Lieutenant-General John Frewen DSC AM, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly and Treasurer Frydenberg to work with businesses on how we can help each other with the vaccine rollout and take-up,” Ferguson said.

“It was a very productive meeting and has opened lines of communication between the Government and the various industry bodies.”

Ferguson said that the hotel industry could soon be assisting in a range of areas including communicating the benefits of vaccination directly with staff and customers as well as the possibility of using hotels in remote areas as future vaccine hubs.

He said the rollout and take-up of the vaccine is critical to hospitality, accommodation and tourism being able to open their doors and keep them open.

Ferguson told Australian Hotelier that while the details had yet to be worked out, hotels would be asked to help.

“The harsh reality is that we have to wait until September and October for these vaccines and we have to be prepared to help each other and communicate the same messages to help people find out where they can get vaccinated,” Ferguson said.

“Hotels have four million unique visitors a year and pubs and accommodation hotels employ 25,0000 people. We have an important role to play help to get the message out alongside Qantas and the banks and Coles and Woolworths.

“We’ll look to submit something in writing in next week or so to help the taskforce understand the strengths of the people at the table.”

The news was welcomed by Sydney’s hoteliers who have expressed frustration following the extension yesterday of the lockdown of Greater Sydney and surrounding areas for another week by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Sydney hotelier Ray Reilly said: “We’d love to get involved wherever we can. The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we can get out of this mess.”

“This time around it’s frustrating because the vaccination rollout has been so slow. I feel a bit let down and frustrated that it seems to be just gyms and hospitality venues that have been shut down. I feel it should be level playing field for all business.”

Brad Jenkins, head of leisure at Lewis Land Group said: “Whatever it is that accelerates it is good news. We’ll look at whatever we can do for staff to make it happen, such as pay them or give them a day off the have the vaccine.”

“If there’s an opportunity to set our workplace up to offer vaccines, we will be into that for sure. We’ve got 600 staff across our sites. ”

Jenkins says the business had just regained its momentum before the most recent lockdown. “We were just starting to get traction with staff – it’s been hard to get staff levels back up, and that issue is industry-wide. We didn’t need that momentum break.”

“We are trying to work out how to get most of our staff vaccinated in a hurry. We think that’s a key thing. We’ll do whatever we’ve got to do.”

AHA NSW CEO John Whelan said yesterday the hotel sector would proudly continue to play its role in preventing the spread of COVID, but needed certainty moving forward.

“The lockdown extension is devastating news for more than 50,000 Greater Sydney-based staff who are out of work for another week, as well as the broader NSW hotel industry which has operated under restricted trading conditions for more than 15 months and counting.”

“Looking ahead, we simply can’t afford another Sydney CBD quarantine COVID breach – the economic and mental health costs of the ensuing lockdown are just too great.”

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