Bookings plummet as people opt to stay away

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Lee Burkett's two sites are among those hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
Camera IconLee Burkett's two sites are among those hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Credit: Warren Hately

Accommodation providers are wrestling with ongoing uncertainty this week as bookings plummet across the Capes region.

Despite fears about Perth holidaymakers still heading to the region — and those wanting to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic down south — most operators reported at least two-thirds of bookings were lost.

Lee Burkett, who manages Margaret’s Beach Resort and Margaret’s In-Town Apartments, said operators didn’t even know if they would be allowed to continue hosting guests in coming weeks, despite some stranded travellers still on-site.

His bookings were down 90 per cent across the two sites.

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Mr Burkett said he wanted to open up suites to out-of-work residents unable to afford existing rents or needing crisis accommodation, but a clear direction from Government was needed before any plan could be in place.

“It would help me keep the doors open and save someone money,” he said.

In Perth, the State Government has co-opted some hotels as emergency accommodation for future COVID-19 patients.

Shire of Augusta-Margaret River chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said crisis housing might be a local challenge requiring local government intervention in the weeks ahead.

Dunsborough-based Private Properties owner David Moyes told the Times he expected his remaining bookings to plunge further.

“People have been looking forward to coming down on holiday and hanging on to that dream, but that’s not going to happen,” he said.

The logistics and personnel required to keep accommodation open could make businesses unviable, he said.

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region confirmed cancellations started at 40 per cent this week and then got worse.

Rob McDonald supported clever thinking to keep the doors open, but acknowledged the reigning uncertainty was hard to overcome.

“All Australians now know that the majority of the things that they like to do whilst on holidays will be closed,” he said.

“Those holiday-makers will continue to cancel reservations.”

There were some visitors still seeking self-contained accommodation, Mr McDonald said.

Margaret River Guest House owner Debbie Noonan said her seven-bedroom business had lost $40,000 in bookings this week.

“Given (the) State Government’s announcement and calling a state of emergency, we in the accommodation/tour business have effective been put out of business today – not that we had many bookings left. Most were just waiting to see what happened,” she said.

On top of retrenching casual staff, hotels and guest houses were left to console “stressed out” guests scrambling for exit plans before WA and the country’s borders slammed shut this week, she said.

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