Perth COVID lockdown leaves regional tourism operators fearing WA school holidays disaster

 In Home News Section, Uncategorized

From Broome, to Busselton, Exmouth and Kalbarri, holidaymakers from Perth are cancelling their bookings, leaving regional tourism operators once again bearing the brunt of a COVID-19 lockdown.

Already hit by cancellations from Victoria and the lockdown in New South Wales, accommodation and tour businesses say the four-day lockdown in Perth and Peel regions could push them to the brink.

Even closer to the city, tourism is suffering. About 1,000 people were taken off Rottnest Island yesterday to comply with the new restrictions.

The July school holidays are one of the busiest times for regional WA and many operators were counting on a boost after a difficult 18 months during the pandemic.

That was especially the case in the popular coastal holiday town of Kalbarri, about 700 kilometres north of Perth.

After already suffering from earlier lockdowns, the town took a direct hit from Cyclone Seroja in April, damaging about 70 per cent of its buildings.

Gecko Lodge owner Paul Loffler said the whole town was booked out for the holidays, mostly by people from Perth.

“The lockdown for Perth will, I won’t say kill us, but it will hurt us really bad,” he said.

“Not just the accommodation part, as in Gecko Lodge, but all the businesses in Kalbarri.

“We’ve just gone through a cyclone, we had COVID last year, and now if we have full lockdown for the holidays it will really hurt Kalbarri as a whole.”

‘Hopefully the lockdown will work’

At the nearby Murchison Caravan Park, people have been calling to cancel or postpone bookings.

Owner Anthony Allen said 80 per cent of reservations were from Perth.

“The biggest hit I’m going to take initially I think is with cabin bookings, because I don’t think I’ll be able to fill the cabins just with people that are in the area,” he said.

“Everyone was looking forward to a really good July holidays, so hopefully the lockdown will work and we’ll be back to business.”

It was no better in Broome, where Cam Birch’s Broome Whale Watching business has seen bookings for tomorrow drop from 36 people to 13 due to Perth cancellations.

“Over the last few weeks we’ve just finished cancelling all of the bookings out of Victoria, all of the bookings out of New South Wales,” he said.

“And then [on Monday night] as the Perth lockdown came in, the emails started and the phone calls started and we started cancelling.

“Not for the whole school holidays but just for the next three or four days.”

Government support package imminent

Premier Mark McGowan acknowledged the strain the lockdown was placing on businesses and promised to announce a support package in coming days.

Previously, the government has offered a payment of up to $2,000 to help businesses cover costs from lost bookings due to lockdown cancellations.

Paul Szczypior, who runs a whale-watching business in Busselton, said the lockdown could push his business over the edge.

He said if it extended into the school holidays, he may have to shut down for several months.

“If we lost the whole school holidays I reckon I would be looking for another job,” he said.

Don’t cancel yet, holidaymakers urged

Exmouth is one of the most popular school holiday destinations for families from Perth, who stay in town, on a station or camp on the Ningaloo coast.

Many are now having to reconsider, delay or cancel their trips.

Exmouth Chamber of Commerce manager Sarah Booth said the July school holidays were normally the region’s busiest time.

“We’re seeing full whale shark boats become empty essentially, so our tour operators are getting hit hard,” she said.

“We don’t want people to make any rash decisions right away — see what’s going to be announced in the next couple of days, don’t jump the gun and make cancellations.

“There’s a range of accommodation now available for the first week of the July school holidays, so if you were trying to find accommodation and missed out, contact the accommodation providers.”

Exmouth Escape Resort spokesperson Jasmine Steel said about 75 per cent of their bookings had been cancelled.

“It’s crazy for our guests because they’ve been looking forward to coming to Exmouth,” she said.

“But it’s also crazy for us as well, having to cancel everything and organise refunds for everyone, it’s a hard time.”

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(Original ABC Article)