Tourism on the skids

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Tourism operators across the Capes have reported their worst run of cancellations ever, with some saying the WA Government stimulus is needed to help sole traders.

Operators told the Times the increasing worldwide halt on air travel had the potential to destroy some local businesses completely.

Travel agents were particularly hard hit, with accommodation providers coming close.

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokesman Rob MacDonald said the next few months would be “tough”.

“I’m in contact with a few accommodation providers and everyone is the same,” he said.

“Cancellations and refunds are streaming in from both international and local tourists, with no new bookings coming in.

“Added to the health scare, with every shop or vineyard that closes due to staffing or health reasons, there’s less reason for tourists to visit our area.”

Margaret River Discovery Company owner Sean Blocksidge said COVID-19 coming on the back of other disruptions would see most operators struggling this winter.

He had processed more than 50 tour cancellations this week.

“The coming weeks and months are going to be incredibly tough for our little town,” he said.

“We’ve had a good summer season, but it’s about to come to a grinding halt very, very fast.

“All the internationals are cancelling, the hotel bookings are disappearing, events are suspended,” Mr Blocksidge said.

“It’ll be a nightmare for anyone working in the tourism and hospitality industry, and a lot of people are likely to lose shifts and jobs or even their business.”

WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia acknowledged the pandemic “remains one of the most challenging times ever for our tourism industry”.

“The economic impacts it will have right across the State are now largely unavoidable,” he said.

“The State Government remains committed to supporting local businesses through this time.”

Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association co-chief executive Steve Harrison said members reported most cancellations from overseas.

“We acknowledge that the weeks and months ahead are going to present significant challenges for regional businesses who rely heavily on hospitality and tourism, and for the families who depend on employment in these sectors,” he said.

“All businesses in the region will be affected to some degree and are having to be flexible in responding to changing circumstances.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said direct stimulus measures were needed to support the industry.

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