Snow industry on brink of collapse after second winter of COVID-19 lockdowns and no trade
After two consecutive winters with limited domestic trade and no international tourists, Australia’s snow industry is on the brink of collapse, according to industry experts.
The industry contributes an estimated $2 billion to the economy annually and employs around 20,000 people.
Snowsports Industries Australia (SIA) chairman Edward Fortey believed the entire industry was under threat — from small city retailers to accommodation providers and large resorts.
“There has been a closure of nearly two years … our members have gone through their second winter as essentially a non-event,” Mr Fortey said.
“We are pretty resilient … but it is an impossible task to ask them to survive … there are going to be some casualties, unfortunately.”
And while support has been provided to some parts of the industry, CEO of the National Retailers Association (NRA) Dominique Lamb said support modelling had been based around geography and failed to acknowledge the national network that made up the entire industry.
“We need it to be broadened to anyone who is operating a business, including manufacturing, specifically for the snow industry, so it’s not just if you are in a region,” Ms Lamb said.
The NRA and SIA are calling on the federal government to view the snow industry on the same level as the aviation sector — with a package similar to the Tourism Aviation Network Support Program.
They also want the NSW government to develop an Alpine Resorts Winter Support package, and the Victorian government to broaden its current program to include all off-mountain providers.
“Ultimately, we need to have our state governments take a look at this because we know that there are tens of thousands of regional jobs at stake,” Ms Lamb said.
She said these changes would ensure non-mountain-based businesses were lifted out of a potential collapse.
Neil Ritchie, owner of Auski, is one such retailer.
His company depended heavily on the sale of snow apparel and equipment online and outside alpine regions, seeing him miss out on significant portions of financial aid.
“In our city store, we are down over 90 per cent so it’s really just about survival … I think most snow retailers are doing the same thing,” he said.
“How do we survive? How do we still have our businesses intact when this all starts to end, which won’t be till June 2022?”
Adding to the problem was the seasonal nature of the snow industry, causing a lengthy wait until regular operations returned.
“When we come out of lockdown … they will have no trade because the winter has passed. So that leaves them with nine months waiting for the next time for them to start welcoming people back into their stores,” Mr Fortey said.
Mr Ritchie said unless there was an immediate policy change, the situation would remain dire.
“There are going to be a lot [of businesses] who won’t be there [next winter season], so as people are heading to the snow next year they’re going to have a lot less choice unless we do something to save them and we’ve got to do it now,” he said.