Just as it looked like Tasmanian tourism was ready to take off again, you might now think it is headed for a crash landing.
- The canning of the 2020 Sydney to Hobart yacht race has already caused cancellations in Hobart
- Businesses are worried confidence in travelling will be harmed, but generally back the cancellation
- The Chamber of Commerce said it was “disappointing” but added a second lockdown for Tasmania would be “devastating”
The latest COVID-19 outbreak in Australia has sunk the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, sparking hotel and restaurant cancellations and keeping people in New South Wales’ hotspots under travel and quarantine restrictions.
The race was cancelled for the first time in 76 years on Saturday night after Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein announced that those people who had been in COVID-19 hotspots on the northern beaches and in other Sydney locations, were banned from entering Tasmania, and all travellers to Tasmania from greater Sydney would have to quarantine upon arrival for 14 days.
After a tough year, Tasmanian businesses were holding out hope the holiday period and the yacht race would fill the streets again.
Tasmania’s borders remain open to other states, but many business operators are concerned the outbreaks in New South Wales, and before then, South Australia, had affected people’s confidence to travel.
Henry Ellis, owner of Above and Beyond Tasmanian Seaplanes, said the coronavirus pandemic had already wiped out the 40 per cent of the company’s business that was based on overseas visitors, and most turnover had since been coming from interstate markets.
Mr Ellis said he was already feeling the effects following the yacht race cancellation.
“It is disappointing, and we have received some cancellations from New South Wales advance bookings,” he said.
“[Since the closure of international markets], 80 per cent of our business was interstate markets.
“Hopefully the outbreak is contained, and we’ll get back to normal within a matter of weeks.”
Apartment manager at Sullivans Cove Apartments in Hobart, Alison Stubbs, said the cancellations started flowing almost immediately.
“For that core period over the Sydney to Hobart period, we have probably lost 20 to 30 per cent of our bookings at this stage,” she said.
“What that means is that News Year’s has suddenly opened up for any of those people who had been unable to get accommodation.
“Naturally we are devastated for the crews.”
Ms Stubbs said the Christmas-New Year period was a busy time of the year “with tourists wanting to be a part of the hype of it all”.
“COVID has certainly taught us to be flexible and expect the unexpected,” she said.
“You just have to go with the flow, and hopefully we keep Tasmania protected for that little bit longer.”
Will Mure, director of Mures restaurant on the Hobart waterfront, said it would have an impact on his business and “it was very sad”.
“This is one thing after the other. Having said that, [it’s] very understandable [that the yacht race was cancelled],” he said.
“We’ve obviously had a lot of cancellations for New Year’s Eve.
“We had the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia booked as they always do in the upper deck, and they are not going there this year.”
Mr Mure said he hadn’t looked at the number of cancellations fully yet.
“We are hoping we will pick that up over the next week we have left,” he said.
“There is still a lot of activity, and if we don’t fill all the spaces it will still be a good time.
“We are still getting some interstate travel.”
Mr Mure said being on the waterfront, the peak time for his business was from Christmas to the end of the first week in January.
“This whole year has been quite unbelievable, and everyone has had to work out how they will survive,” he said.
“It would be far, far worse if we had an outbreak in Tassie, and all the business had to close down now, that would be really devastating.”
Mr Mure said the Launceston to Hobart yacht race would now be the big event for the summer for the waterfront.
Michael Bailey from the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce said the news about the race and lockdown in some parts of New South Wales was disappointing.
“We know New South Wales is an important market for Tasmania for tourism,” he said.
“We also know it is an important market for our products. Across Tasmania there are some businesses that are very disappointed.
“But clearly, the important thing is keeping Tasmanians safe, and what we don’t what is a second outbreak in Tasmania.
“A second lockdown for Tasmania would be devastating.”
But Mr Bailey said it would still be a strong Christmas.
Mr Bailey said the Federal Government would need to extend JobKeeper for certain businesses across Australia.
“The focus for 2021 is going to have to be to grow the economy and get people back to work,” he said.
He said a number of campaigns targeting specific interest areas like fly fishing, mountain biking and bushwalking should be part of the 2021 recovery.
Premier backs race cancellation
Speaking on Monday, Mr Gutwein said he agreed with the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s decision to cancel the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
“I believe that the right decision has been made,” he said.
“A second wave here in the state would have had devastating health and economic consequences here in Tasmania.”
Mr Gutwein said many tourism businesses would be struggling with cancellations and he encouraged Tasmanians to support them.
“We stood up during the months of August, September and October and we holidayed at home,” he said.
“If you have the opportunity to support a local business please do so and holiday at home if you can at the moment.”