Canberran businesses fear being crippled by a Covid-restricted parliamentary sitting period.
Federal parliament will convene for a fortnight from Tuesday but, in a bid to prevent a super-spreader event, will operate at reduced capacity and with the public locked out.
Canberran businesses typically feed off an influx of visitors during sitting weeks, as politicians, their staff, journalists, and lobbyists descend on the capital.
But with Sydney's lockdown forcing a number MPs to attend remotely, and others urged to eat take-home meals while slashing their travelling parties to the bare bones, the next fortnight will not be the boon local businesses are accustomed to.
Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Anthony Brierley warned the impact was most keenly felt in the accommodation sector, with many hotels housing under 10 per cent of their expected guests.
"The situation for accommodation hotels is dire ... It's been dire for five weeks. It's going to be dire for another five weeks," he said.
"That's just our reality at the moment: people are not coming to Canberra because they can't."
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The blow was softened throughout 2020 by the federal government's JobKeeper wage subsidy, which expired in March, Mr Brierley said.
He demanded targeted support for an industry already seeing staff stood down, and businesses considering "mothballing their operations".
"Our hotels here are doing as badly as hotels in Sydney but, because Canberra is not a hotspot, we don't get any money for the wages or businesses in our sector," he said.
"It's inequitable and the Commonwealth isn't changing that. I think it's wrong.
"We're doing it on our own. It's the only place in the country where an industry is expected to suffer from Coronavirus restrictions on its own. Literally everywhere else gets support."
Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt said the ACT economy was already bearing the brunt of the crisis, which gripped NSW just before the July school holidays.
"We were hearing reports of people that were over that two-week period of the school holidays 30 per cent, [or] even more, down on takings," he said.
"It's very significant across the board. [But] it's not just this sitting period, it's actually the continuation of something that's been ongoing for a while now."
Mr Catt described sitting weeks as "a big driver for our visitor economy", but predicted a spate of event cancellations over the next fortnight.
And that could be exacerbated if a snap lockdown in south-east Brisbane was extended beyond its scheduled end date on Wednesday.
"It's sitting weeks particularly that provide a lot of balance and keep those businesses going when it's not a big tourist time, such as school holidays," Mr Catt said.
He argued there was a "strong case" for extending federal support payments to the ACT, despite the territory having reported no cases in over a year.
He compared the economic impact of the lockdowns to that of the 2019-20 Black Summer, when bushfires raged around the ACT.
"We had no fires burning in Canberra [either], but we were watching businesses have to close down for days on end and reduce takings," he said.
Manuka Newsagency owner Matthew Nobbs said his business would "definitely" be operating at less than half its normal sitting week levels.
The Sydney outbreak had already caused the "massive" Kanga Cup soccer tournament to be cancelled, and a reduction in people passing through on their way to the snow, he said.
"It was [also] really noticeable as soon as the masks came in, for that two-week period [in June and July]. It was like the tap being turned off and it hasn't bounced back at all," he said.
Mr Nobbs said small business operators were more exposed than public servants, who had "not taken a paycut" during the pandemic.
"[They] had the ability to go and be so-called productive from home. The small business person gets hit between the eyes, but the public servant bowls on like nothing's happened," he said.
But his deputy Michael Kidd on Saturday insisted federal authorities were working "very closely" with Parliament's presiding officers to avoid transmission.
"Everything is being done to ensure that this sitting in Parliament is carried out in a safe manner as possible," he said on Sunday.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese will also be subject to stay-at-home orders from ACT Health, after visiting Brisbane last week.
He will be permitted to attend Parliament House, but will be required to wear a mask while in the building.
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