South Australia’s regional tourism and hospitality businesses are mopping up after losing thousands of dollars and bookings within a week.
- South Australia has closed its borders to most jurisdictions
- Regional tourism businesses have lost dollars and bookings
- But some tourists are making the most of being trapped in the state
The state has locked out — or imposed a quarantine period for — residents of all jurisdictions, except for Victoria and Tasmania, as COVID-19 outbreaks unfold across the country.
Tour operator Craig Haslam — who takes groups across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth and around the Eyre Peninsula — faced an instant refund bill of almost $100,000.
“If we can’t work out another date for those travellers, we will refund that money,” Mr Haslam said.
A group of 16 in Adelaide tourists was due to start their journey to Perth, via Port Lincoln, on Wednesday.
“Those big tours across the Nullarbor, it’s an accommodated tour, and it’s a lot of money,” he said.
He said there would be a big flow-on effect for restaurants, pubs and accommodation providers on the Eyre Peninsula and Nullarbor that were booked for his tours.
“It’s far-reaching,” Mr Haslam said. “Everyone’s been really good, they understand there’s not much we can do. The longer-term issue [for him] is retaining tour guides.”
Restrictions hit hard
On Monday, the South Australian government re-introduced social restrictions across the state.
These include a limit of one person per 2 square metres at venues such as pubs, mandatory seated consumption of alcohol, a ban on singing and compulsory masks inside entertainment venues.
The manager of Mount Gambier’s Jens Hotel, Aaron Davis, said the restrictions were “really tough”.
“It is not just the turnover [for the pub], it’s the staff [who] are going to lose hours,” he said.
“If we drop them down six or seven hours, they’re losing that $180-200, so it has probably hurt them more than it has hurt a lot of other things.
Mr Davis said it was also disappointing for musicians scheduled to perform at the venue this weekend.
“We just started doing more music on weekends, so that will all stop.
“We’ve already cancelled all the shows for this weekend.”
Local tourism turbo-charged
A positive side effect of border closures, however, has been unusually strong intrastate travel.
John Simpson — who runs the 500 Miles of Music tour across outback SA — lost all of his NSW acts mid-tour.
However, he was hoping for a big turnout at the remaining, hastily-rebooked shows.
“We still think we’re going to have quite a lot of people here because they’re driving around, but none of them wants to go to the other states because they’ll get stuck here for two weeks when they come back,” Mr Simpson said.
The tourism development officer at the Port Lincoln City Council, Naomi Blacker, said the local caravan park was confronting that issue.
“They’ve let me know that people who’ve actually paid and left and were heading either to Western Australia or elsewhere are now turning around and coming back because they can’t go interstate — they’re going to stay and holiday in South Australia for a bit longer,” she said.
The community run Berri Hotel, in the Riverland, has ramped up expansion plans because of the increase in local tourism.
Chairman Paul Stewart said the pub has added 10 new properties to its original plan to build 20 holiday units.
The word in the tourist industry suggests that international travel is probably a year — or maybe two years — away from people being confident to be doing that,” Mr Stewart said.