COVID-19 has affected the different sectors within the Shire’s vital tourism and hospitality industry in vastly different ways over the past year, with traditional accommodation providers seeing major growth, while many tour operators have watched bookings dwindle.
As school holiday visitor numbers plummet following the imposition of restrictions and lockdowns across the country, The Echo has found a varied picture of winners and losers within the Shire’s biggest employing industry since the pandemic began.
David Jones, the Vice President of Destination Byron and the sales-and-marketing manager of Elements resort, said most local hotels and resorts had seen significant increases over the past eight to 12 months.
‘We’ve had a record year [at Elements] and I think almost everyone in this part of the industry has too’, Mr Jones said.
‘Since late September last year till March this year, the overnight visitor economy in Byron has been experiencing record growth.
‘Coming here is a great holiday for Australians at a time when other options for people are really limited’.
But it’s been a very different story for many of those running activity-based businesses, such as kayaking, snorkelling and surf lessons.
These operators typically rely on international travellers, with domestic tourists making up a relatively small proportion of the business.
The additional cancellations brought about by the current lockdowns and restrictions have been a cruel blow.
‘It’s devastating – we’ve had close to 100 per cent cancellations for the school holiday period’, the owner of Cape Byron Kayaks, Alice Livingston, said.
‘It was actually looking decent, but the loss of all the Sydney people and from Queensland has been big’.
Ms Livingston said that full hotels did not mean full tours.
‘We’re mostly internationals’, she said.
‘Our domestic market is conference groups, weddings and school groups. A lot of those haven’t really come back yet’.
Local support encouraged
She encouraged locals to come out and support the operators by having a go at activities they may never have tried before.
‘This is a great time to get out on the water – the whales are coming out. It’s perfect.’
Another group that will feel the pinch of the school holiday lockdowns are the hundreds of workers who keep the tourism and hospitality industry running, such as cleaners, maintenance workers, and those working in cafes, bars and restaurants.
Many of these staff have seen their casual hours drop away significantly over the past 10 days.
‘In the last week, we have had 80 per cent cancellations with all of our holiday letting cleans, owing to COVID-19’, the owner of In the Bay Services, Cristina Arcila said.
‘Next week is completely cleared – that’s about 20 properties’.