The four Aussie industries that need a hand right now

From agriculture to retail, COVID-19 had a severe affect on every Australian sector. Even as we start to embrace the ‘new normal’, there are a few key industries that still need help. Here are four.

Throughout 2020, the year of COVID-19, the Australian economy was battered by job losses, shutdowns, border closures and falling consumer demand. Few industries escaped the onslaught of this pandemic — with manufacturing, recreation, the media, business services and transport feeling the greatest pain.

Here we look at the challenges and opportunities for four important sectors, what you can do to help them weather the ongoing economic storm, and what sentiment is like as we embrace life post-COVID.

Tourism operators

How they were impacted

With the collapse of international travel and state border closures, the tourism sector was in acute economic pain throughout 2020. International visitor numbers slumped by 40 per cent for the first six months of the year. On the upside, many regional operators, such as country hotels and resorts, reported strong bookings as Aussies opted to holiday at home.

How they’re feeling now

The opening of state borders and the resumption of domestic flights have given local operators hope that they can attract some of the many millions of Aussies who would normally travel overseas to holiday at home. Regional Australia Institute chief economist Kim Houghton says the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Margaret River are already riding the wave, but smaller regional destinations are still struggling. "I'm certainly not suggesting everywhere is booming,” he says. “That's not the case at all.”

How you can help

Rather than hopping on a plane, pack up the car and explore your own state. Many regional attractions have reopened. Maybe it’s time for a family camping trip? And don’t forget the regions that were also hugely affected by the summer bushfires — consider a trip to one of them, too.

Of course, if you’re going to hit the road for a regional roadtrip, make sure your car insurance is up to date. Consider adding Roadside Assistance to your policy if you haven’t already, in case the unexpected occurs while you’re hours away from home.

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How it was impacted

While domestic demand for meat, seafood and fresh fruit and vegetables remained strong, primary producers were not immune from the pandemic. The loss of export markets and sluggish demand from restaurants and cafes badly impacted many smaller producers. A lack of labour and a disrupted supply chain are also ongoing challenges.

How they’re feeling now

Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds, executive director of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, says that despite the uncertainty around COVID-19, the agricultural sector is bouncing back after several years of drought. Reduced stock numbers and falling commodity prices are a concern, but this is offset by healthy domestic sales. “People still need to eat, even if the economic downturn means they have to cut spending in other areas,” he says.

How you can help

Buying Australian has never been more important, so fly the flag at the supermarket. Support smaller regional producers by visiting your local growers’ market.


How it was impacted

One of the major consequences of COVID-19 on economies such as Australia’s was the migration to online shopping. Deloitte Access Economics predicted that 2020 would be the worst year on record for traditional bricks-and-mortar Australian retailers. Analysts predicted sweeping changes in our retail landscape, with an overhaul of suburban shopping malls.

How they’re feeling now

After patchy August and September sales, retailers were confident of a Christmas bonanza. “Australian retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits during the Christmas period,” says Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra

How you can help

Smaller retailers are the lifeblood of our shopping centres and main streets, but are battling high rents and supply problems. Your continued patronage is vital for their survival. To support regional businesses affected by drought, bushfires and COVID-19, consider sites like Spend With Us.


How it was impacted

Lockdown measures had a dramatic impact on cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars across the country. Job losses were widespread. Restrictions eased towards the end of the 2020, but the hospitality sector was still facing a major fight for survival.

How they’re feeling now

Reduced seating capacity, cautious patrons and a staff shortage are three issues facing the hospitality industry. Wes Lambert, the chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, says the pandemic has highlighted an underlying labour problem within the sector. “We have known for a decade that the enrolments into VET and TAFE for commercial cookery and front-of-house hospitality management have been in decline,” he says. 

How you can help

Keep supporting local restaurants and pubs that enforce social distancing. If you’re still nervous about dining out, consider the beer garden or terrace. Or order take-away — and order direct from the venue rather than using a food delivery service.

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This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.