Businesses hope for holiday boost
Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.
TOURISM and hospitality businesses need an influx of tourists these school holidays to bounce back from Victoria’s fourth lockdown.
Business leaders say the lockdown halted positive momentum which is yet to return.
Acacia Caravan Park owners, Matt and Kaylene Linsley, said lockdown at the end of May “sucked the life out of everyone” and continues to affect business.
“The first quarter of this year was amazing; it exceeded all expectations. People were travelling,” Mrs Linsley said.
“After the regional lockdown, during the long weekend, we had four cabins booked and three caravans in, that was it.
“We're not whingeing, we understand, but realistically it is slow... and we need to build the momentum up again,” Mr Linsley added.
The couple said weekday bookings have been a saving grace, thanks to Monday to Friday reservations from roadworkers.
“Overall, it's that tourist and school holidays trade that hasn't really kicked in,” Mr Linsley said.
Hospitality venues have also recorded a decrease in patrons post-lockdown, blamed on a dent in customer confidence and reduced seating quotas.
Sede Café owner, Bishal Khanal, said his business has been able to recoup some losses thanks to local support.
“The tourist trade has not been as much as we expected, and I think everybody has the same experience,” he said.
“We're very positive (about school holidays), we're excited actually and hoping we get a few more tourists in.”
Greater Ararat Business Network president and Ararat RSL general manager, Maria Whitford, said the circuit-breaker lockdown, although designed to be short, did not spare businesses from long-term losses.
“It really hurts consumer confidence. Everybody loses the confidence to do anything... it creates a long-term problem for businesses,” she said.
“[Acting Premier] James Merlino stood up in front of everyone and said everybody should be happy today, they get to open. It was like he thought that we were all going to open and make all this money. Well, some didn't open because it wasn't viable.
“The Victorian Government, I think, really struggles to put effort into mitigating these lockdowns.”
Ms Whitford said members of the GAB Network continue to meet weekly on Zoom and are hopeful of a boost in trade over the next two weeks.
“Everyone’s feeling a little bit flat, for sure, but I think they're looking forward to some activity these holidays,” she said.
“We need it three hundred per cent, we all need it.”