Businesses along the South Coast say they are ready to receive customers following months of travel restrictions from bushfires and COVID-19 that have crippled tourism-dependent local economies.
President of the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber Alison Miers says that while the bushfire clean-up efforts continue, the pandemic has been worse for most small businesses.
“The bushfires did not burn the CBD or businesses as such, so the bushfire recovery is more around regional clean-ups and that sort of thing,” she said.
“The unknown of [the pandemic] and the longevity of it and how it has affected business right across the board has been far greater than the bushfires.
“When they open those restrictions, everyone will be good to go.”
Travel restrictions in NSW will be eased on 1 June, with Premier Gladys Berejikilian encouraging regional recreational travel for residents, but ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says Canberrans should look at supporting local businesses who are struggling instead of heading straight to the coast.
“I would like Canberra people to spend money locally first … there are a lot of local businesses that could do with your support right now,” he said.
“Clearly there are Canberrans who own property on the coast and feel they have not had the opportunity to go down there for some time.
“I am not encouraging anyone to go but people should not feel like the worst person in the world if they want to go down the coast.”
Despite coastal getaways and holiday houses being a staple for many Canberrans during summer, Ms Miers said some people will still be wary of travelling outside their local regions even when restrictions are eased next month.
“There will still be hesitant travellers,” she acknowledged.
“Even though people are opening and will be keen to get out of their house, there is still going to be a fair section of the community that is reluctant to travel knowing the potential for an outbreak in regional areas.
“Seeing as we have not had the outbreaks, and all the things have been put in place in this two-month time frame, I think we should be fine if everyone respects all the guidelines that have been clearly laid out with social distancing and hygiene.”
However, not all businesses are going to be able to open in time for the June long weekends if the number of patrons allowed on premises remains the same.
Ms Miers said the 10-person restrictions at restaurants would be frustrating for many businesses and opening to service so few patrons wouldn’t be economically viable.
“But that will happen in the next three or four weeks; I suspect they will broaden those numbers and more and more will open up.”
The ACT Government will make an announcement on lockdown restrictions in the Territory on Friday, 29 May following the National Cabinet meeting. Mr Barr has flagged that the ACT will move to stage-two restrictions, which will allow gatherings of up to 20 people. More businesses will also be permitted to open.
If the ACT continues on the path of no active cases, and the trends continue to look positive, then it is “well-placed” for further easing, Mr Barr said.