A group of ACT businesses is calling on other local business owners to join them in supporting the recovery of the South Coast economy by giving staff a day off to head to the coast.
Devastated by the recent bushfires, coastal towns are enduring the after effects of a disastrous tourism season, with many business owners struggling to make ends meet or give work to employees who need it now more than ever.
The idea is simple: offer your staff one day of extra paid leave on a Friday or Monday on the condition they use it to have a long weekend down the coast.
Each tourist who books two nights accommodation, grabs a morning coffee, eats out at a local restaurant, buys a few groceries at the IGA, and takes the family on a dolphin tour could bolster the local economy by around $1000.
The #southcoastlongweekend initiative is the brainchild of ACT Property Inspections owner Robert Lowe.
Mr Lowe grew up on the South Coast with his five siblings who all now live in Canberra. With continuing close ties to the region, the family has seen first-hand the physical, emotional and financial damage the fires have caused.
“We know dozens of people who have lost their houses and have minimal income streams coming in because of the lack of tourism,” Mr Lowe said.
“Fish and chip shops, cafes, tourism operators, they’re all impacted.
“I knew I wanted to make a difference but I didn’t know how. And I wanted to come up with something that would have a direct impact in the community, rather than donating to large corporations and keeping my fingers crossed that it would filter through.”
After his lightbulb moment, Ms Lowe rang a few other local businesses for feedback. They were so excited about the idea, they came on board straight away and are now reaching out to others in the ACT business community.
Businesses are being asked to put a post or video on social media to say they are taking part, with the hashtag #southcoastlongweekend, and add tags for three other local businesses as the challenge for them to get involved.
“We’re a team of 16 staff, and we’ve offered a paid day off to all of them provided they spend it down the coast and spend their money locally. If each staff member spends $1000 our contribution alone stands at $16,000. Some have decided to go now, others are waiting for later in the month. But the money is going into the community right when and where it’s needed,” Mr Lowe said.
Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes said #southcoastlongweekend is a great idea and she hopes many businesses in the ACT and surrounds will accept the challenge.
“We’re so humbled and grateful that our friends in the ACT are thinking of us and want to do all they can to help. Now the emergency is over, there’s a genuine fear among people on the coast where they feel they will be forgotten. And it’s initiatives like this that make us feel like we’re not and will help our economy, which has been absolutely devastated,” Ms Innes said.
“We would love for as many businesses as possible in the ACT to take on the challenge and help their staff have a long weekend – be it now or in autumn or winter. We have the most amazing winter on the South Coast with beautiful produce, seafood, and amazing butchers with delicious sausages and cold meats. Winter is like our little secret, and we’d love to share it with everybody!”
Employees are also being urged to ask their bosses to get involved.
“I think everyone in Canberra knows someone who has lost a lot in these fires,” Mr Lowe said. “So we’re calling on every business – small, medium and large. You can make a difference. And it only takes an extra day of paid leave to do it.”