News National Lost bookings, visitors and profits: Coronavirus has Australian tourist sites reeling

Lost bookings, visitors and profits: Coronavirus has Australian tourist sites reeling

Businesses that rely heavily on tourists are facing very uncertain times. Photo: Getty
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A chocolate factory which normally welcomes about 4500 Chinese tourists every month has recorded about $52,000 in lost revenue since the Morrison government first imposed a travel ban on people from China.

That’s more than half of the profit Phillip Island Chocolate factory usually makes each month, owner Kondanapanny Letchumanan said.

“We are trying to tighten all expenditures as much as we can so we can survive,” he said, adding that they’ve been forking out money on television advertisements to entice more locals to visit their factory.

But it’s not the only tourist attraction to suffer from the coronavirus outbreak, with Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery reporting 800 fewer visitors every day.

Meanwhile, John Boyce, who takes tourists on yachts around the Whitsunday Islands and outer Great Barrier Reef, has not had a single person enquire about his company’s expeditions in more than a month.

During the same time period, tourist guide Michael Guo has been out of a job, with no idea when he’ll be receiving his next booking. Like other tourism industry workers in former hotspots across Australia, he’s feeling the coronavirus’ impact.

Mr Pickworth and wife Mai have seen a quarter of a drop in customers. Photo: Supplied

“We’re suffering,” said Ian Pickworth, who runs wine tasting tours in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

With 75 per cent of his customers coming from countries such as China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, Mr Pickworth suspects his company, Winebus, won’t be making any profit for at least another two months.

The World Health Organisation recently advised that all countries make containment their highest priority, but for Mr Pickworth’s business, “it’s not going to get any better”, he said.

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, which averages around 2000 visitors per day, has seen a “big drop” in customers.

They’ve recorded 40 per cent (800) fewer people coming through their doors, owner Leanne Neeland said.

Ms Neeland (with her husband Ian) is uncertain when foot traffic will pick up. Photo: Supplied

With no end in sight to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ms Neeland “like all other business owners” are “very nervous about what is coming around the corner”.

“Some casual staff have had half-shifts or 10 to 20 per cent of shifts dropped,” she said.

Now is the time John Boyce should be securing bookings for tours around the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef but in the six weeks since the coronavirus outbreak, he hasn’t received a single booking.

Mr Boyce with his wife Lynne. Photo: Supplied

Normally, bookings are made at least four months or even a year in advance as passengers have to be on board for days. No new bookings could mean there will be very little need to take his yacht out in the next two to six months which is when he is planning to schedule the tours.

“Being two or three bookings behind is a significant percentage because our operation is so specialised.”

All Whitsunday Luxury Sailing’s current bookings were made before the coronavirus outbreak. Enquiries have since “dried up”, Mr Boyce said.

“There hasn’t been an email asking about our expeditions for four to five weeks. Not one.”

And he doesn’t blame them.

“…Not knowing what the future was and not knowing what the insurance situation would be … I’d be delaying my decision significantly until I knew what was going on,” Mr Boyce said.

“I wouldn’t want to be wasting my money.”

Michael Guo runs his own tour company, showing Chinese tourists around popular Victorian attractions such as Sovereign Hill, the Great Ocean Road, Puffing Billy and Dandenong Ranges.

Mr Guo will potentially be out of a job for another few months. Photo: Christiane Barro

He hasn’t been working since February 3 as the five tourist groups he was meant to show around during that month and in March and April all had to cancel after the China travel ban was enforced on February 1.

Mr Guo considers himself lucky because he does not have money loans that need to be paid off unlike some of his friends in the industry who have mortgages and business loans they need to get on top of.

“I don’t know when this situation will end,” he said.

July and August is when schools in China will be on summer holidays so  Mr Guo is “praying” he’ll get some bookings for that time if “fingers crossed” COVID-19 is contained before then.

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