Further restrictions cripple industry

By Adrienne Hartnett

As regional Victoria once again enters stage 3 restrictions, the local tourism industry has again been ground to a halt, with operators on both sides of the border unsure of what the future holds for their business.

Heritage Motor Inn Owner, Geoff Mallows told The Free Press prior to the restrictions being introduced, the tough border permit zone was severely impacting most accommodation places in the area.

“The permit zone actually made the situation worse now than what it was back in April,” Mr Mallows said. 

“The NSW premier is discouraging NSW people from coming here, and Victorian people outside of the bubble can’t come here anyway.

“Victoria has to shut down, I understand that because it’s gotten out of control. It’s a crying shame though, because back in June we were so close to eradication,” he said. 

For Mr Mallows, up to 90 percent of bookings come from Victoria.

“We are Victorian reliant for business. When people travel here, they don’t see a border.

“Rutherglen is the drawcard with all the wineries, but Corowa has more accommodation.

“I don’t know what we are going to do. We can’t change our business model. Unfortunately, you can’t have online accommodation.

“We know there is demand for people to move around once restrictions ease. Things were starting to pick up in May and June. There was even a reasonable amount of bookings planned in July… and then Victoria went bad and we had nonstop cancellations,” Mr Mallows said.

Victoria Hotel Rutherglen owner Dave Wilson echoed similar sentiments.

“We were closed for exactly three months. When we reopened in June, I’d never seen tourism in the district as strong. Obviously, that was before border closures and Melbourne lockdown,” Mr Wilson told The Free Press.

“I spoke to the customers and many of them were meant to be travelling interstate or overseas and instead they came to this area and were happy with what they found. I’ve been here five years and had never seen anything like it.

“Now, since the closure, I haven’t had anyone in for accommodation for three weeks now. Numbers just stopped overnight because we are a tourist-based town.” 

As stage 3 restrictions come into effect Wednesday night, The Victoria Hotel along with all other hospitality venues will once again close their doors. 

“Unfortunately, we will be closing as from Wednesday night. We will be doing takeaway and home delivered meals with our JobKeeper staff still working to allow us to do this,” Mr Wilson said.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Government has reopened the Accommodation Support Package for businesses that have lost bookings due to the new COVID-19 lock down in Melbourne. 

In Corowa, Federation Council Mayor, Pat Bourke said while the region was being severely affected by new restrictions, the return of consistent domestic tourism would be a welcome first step towards recovery

“Whilst advice from the NSW Government is that now is not the time to travel for some of us border regions, as a collective, we will be ready and waiting to welcome back our loyal visitors and throughout the journey, inspire future visitors to visit us when the time is right,” he said.