With the rise of the ‘staycation’ and holidaying locally, the NSW South Coast’s tourism sector has seen abnormally high demand throughout winter and spring as COVID-19 restrictions have continued to ease.
Eurobodalla Shire Council economic development manager Teresa Leve told Canberra Weekly, 2020 has bucked the trend with tourists surging outside of their traditional summer high season.
“We have a captured market because people have been holidaying within their own backyard and states, that has what’s been very positive for our industry in what would be the off months,” she said.
Ms Leve said during months like August and September, which would usually be “very quiet”, many businesses have instead seen their “best results in that period” for some time.
“It’s certainly been an extraordinary year for everyone,” she said. “We’ve had three distinct challenges here being the bushfires, floods and COVID restrictions.”
“But even through this very challenging tourism year, people have continued to visit Eurobodalla.”
Year-over-year, the local tourism sector was up 19% overall in October 2020 compared to October 2019.
Coming into summer, Ms Leve said she’s expecting the year-over-year growth to continue in December before levelling out in January.
Owner of Bay Breeze Motel in Batemans Bay, Alison Miers, told Canberra Weekly there’s a “positive” sentiment in town amongst business owners.
“Everyone’s extremely busy and extremely positive leading into the Christmas season,” she said.
“Fingers crossed everyone’s respectful of the restrictions still in place … When the population swells from 16,000 up to 100,000 it’s difficult to accommodate those people in the restaurants.”
This sustained economic growth and the fact that summer is here has meant numerous NSW South Coast businesses in tourism and tourism-related sectors have begun advertising more positions, with something of a shortage of workers available in the region.
“What’s happened with changes in restrictions and I suppose businesses getting back to normal operations, or a new normal, is where they’ve had to retract in their staffing, many of those jobs are coming back on board,” Ms Leve said.
Ms Miers said a lot of businesses are “crying out for staff”.
“Most businesses that you go into are either advertising online or advertising in their windows for staff in the hospitality industry.
“I can’t get a receptionist, I normally have a full-time receptionist, I’ve been working seven days a week since early September.”
Compounding that issue is the fact there is currently an accommodation shortage due to the 2019-20 bushfires reducing housing stock in the region.
“Accommodation’s very difficult, there’s just nothing around,” Ms Miers said. “I could have sold out the motel 10 times over with the amount of calls I get.
“I hope tourists are mindful of the situation everyone’s been through at the Coast, it’s still very raw for everyone.
“With everything else the businesses have had to endure since COVID, everyone’s still finding their feet.”
Outside the “very key” tourism economy, Ms Leve said the resident population has been engaging more with local businesses in a way that has “really impressed” her.