Tasmanian travel vouchers scheme on again, as tourist operators eye COVID future

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Erica Bowd hasn’t had to change a thing to attract visitors to her high-end accommodation on the shores of the Bruny Island in Tasmania’s south.

Despite the on-again-off-again border closures and recent COVID-19 lockdowns grappling Australia’s three most populous states, her “boutique environmental accommodation” is not only running at capacity — it has a waitlist.

“To be completely honest, we’ve been fully booked the whole time,” said Ms Bowd, who owns the property.

“For us, we’ve been running at a 100 per cent with a waitlist.”

She said people do cancel when lockdowns prevent them from making the trip, but the vacancies are then snapped up “literally overnight”.

“With Queensland lockdown just recently, we get an influx of cancellations, naturally. Followed — probably the following day — by an influx of replacement bookings by other states that are available,” she said.

“We do a lot more work in that we’re handling cancellations and rebooking. We had one vacancy this year. That’s how busy we are.”

Ms Bowd thinks she could be one of the fortunate ones.

Bruny Island is a small but densely visited place, advertised as “Tasmania’s premiere island destination”.

“Maybe we are just benefiting from a little microcosm. And we do provide a unique style of accommodation,” she said.

Third round of travel vouchers available

Others have been on the roller-coaster of high tourist activity, followed by a dry spell.

Maylands Lodge in Hobart — another high-end accommodation venue — lost about 50 per cent of its bookings for the month, when New South Wales announced a lockdown.

Those places still haven’t been filled.

“When there’s a sudden lockdown, it’s impossible,” manager Jessica Johnson said.

“It’s really difficult to fill last-minute bookings.

“The biggest thing is, even when the borders do open people are so hesitant to want to leave.

“It’s been over a year now and unfortunately the novelty for Tasmanians has worn off in terms of wanting to travel around their own state.”

But the Tasmanian Government is confident is has a remedy.

Today, it will release $7.5 million worth of tourism vouchers designed to entice Tasmanians to “holiday at home”.

“The vouchers, I think, give people the little nudge or remind them that they can support local businesses,” Ms Johnson said.

Those wanting to secure one have to enter a ballot set to ensure vouchers are “fairly allocated”.

The ballot closes on August 9 and successful recipients will be notified on August 11.

It is the third time the government has released vouchers since the pandemic began. Except this time around, they can be used seven days a week — until September 24.

Each voucher is worth $300, of which $200 is allocated for an accommodation of choice and $100 for a tourism experience, which also constitutes a rental car hire.

“What we know from the last voucher scheme is that there was just under $30 million worth of additional spending in our economy as a result,” Premier Peter Gutwein said.

“We expect that this voucher scheme will be just as successful.

“Obviously those [businesses] relying on people coming from NSW have been significantly impacted. What we want to see is those beds filled by Tasmanians.”

Future forecast ‘very strong’

Destination Southern Tasmania chief executive Alex Heroys said tourism operators had had a mixed experience during the pandemic, but overall, the sector had fared “better than expected”.

“There were certainly some businesses that have had visitation higher than pre-COVID levels. But there are also sectors of industry that are struggling really hard,” he said.

“Our forecasting at the beginning of the pandemic was that there was a visitation level of 40 to 50 per cent of what we had pre-2019.

“Prior to the current border closures, the access into the state was up at about 85 per cent of 2019 levels, which is a lot higher than we had forecast.

“What has played out is that Tasmania is a very attractive destination for the domestic market.”

He said despite concerns for businesses reliant on the international market, the overall prediction for the Christmas season looked positive.

“The future forecast is very strong,” he said.

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By Katri Uibu (Original ABC Article)