Wanting To Take Trip Next Year?

Here’s What You Need To Know

As the pandemic restrictions continue to ease out, some daily living routines are gradually normalizing. Well, how does an overseas holiday trip sound?

Many have been offering low prices for international trips, all with the hope of recovering the tourism and economic momentum. Some have announced half-price to Bali or a two-for-one cruise through the Norwegian fjords.

Everything from “flexible” accommodation packages to discounted sightseeing tours was surprisingly a lead-up to this somehow strange season. For others, it might be a perfect time to grab these offers.

However, with international borders still being closed, authorities are tight-lipped on timelines for a reprieve. The question, is it safe to book a trip ahead?

“The whole thing is so unpredictable,” offers travel writer and podcaster, Ute Junker.

Junker added “Will you be able to get out of the country? Will you be able to get into the country you want to go to? Will the flight you’ve managed to book, is it actually going to depart? Travel at the moment has so many moveable parts.”

Junker revealed that there have been many offers emerging online, with many marketed as valid for one or two years from the time of purchase making a booking with a bit of wiggle room may seem to be the safest bet.

However, according to Leanne Wiseman, a professor of law at Griffith University asserted there are introduced elements of flexibility when it comes to refunds and cancellations, albeit depending on what the terms and conditions are.

Terms and conditions of holiday deals vary, so it is important for people to be aware of what they’re signing up for and what they expect to redeem should things don’t go as planned.

In addition booking directly with the service provider, rather than a reseller, could also save you a headache down the track, adds Junker because the cancellation policies tend to be simpler and you’re just dealing with one person.

However, travel insurance would be a major discrepancy. With the pandemic, those purchasing insurance may not be covered for medical or cancellation expenses relating to contracting the disease, or from changes to travel plans that result from quarantine measures.

Hence, Junker asserted those considering taking the plunge without insurance should think twice, echoes Junker.

So where should people go next year? Destinations that are on the top of the radar for Australians are sadly discouraged. Thus, deep research is necessary. According to travel agencies, North America isn’t a safe bet yet, instead, New Zealand and other parts of Asia are where you could divert your travel interests.

NSW-Victoria Border Reopened After 138 Days

NSW-Victoria Border

After 138 days of locked down, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has reopened the NSW-Victoria border at 12.01 am this morning.

At the main road crossing between the two states, DJ was spinning beats and police and police sirens were blaring as cars crossed the Murray River between Wodonga and Albury at 12.01 am.

Whilst the first flight from Melbourne touched down in Sydney shortly before 8:00 am passengers were met with drag queens and Bondi lifeguards and were offered donuts as a treat that have become synonymous with “0” new cases of COVID-19.

As the border has reopened, it breathed new life into one of the world’s busiest air travel routes. It comes with a total of 25 planes due to land in the Harbour City from Melbourne today. This means that for the first time since July 8, people are able to travel between Australia’s two most populous states without a mandatory two-week quarantine period.

For instance, Fiona Snape, a Melbourne resident, stayed in Wodonga last night so she could hit the road early this morning to pick up her 18-year-old daughter from University in Canberra. As soon as she heard the border was opening, she immediately booked accommodation. 

Fiona is just one of the many who booked accommodation within hours of the reopening announcement. Everyone was looking forward to a nice reunion.

At the Econolodge Border Gateway Motel, manager Duncan McLaren said that they had close to 150 reservations. Given that they are only a 10-room motel in a little country town, the numbers are quite phenomenal. “It’s quite a good feeling to have after the last few months of very crippling restrictions.” It was yet good news for Australians as another state took a step further amid these devastating times. Step by step the nation can get through this together.

Tourist town of Kalbarri is booming but has run out of worker accommodation


West Australians are heeding the State Government’s call to wander out yonder to stimulate regional business, but it has come at a cost.

Holiday accommodation in the Midwest coastal town of Kalbarri, 570 kilometres north of Perth, has been booked out for months thanks to a rush of people exploring their own state while interstate and international tourism has been shut off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business owners and workers, however, say the flipside of the boom is a lack of housing for people in the service industries.

They are being forced to cut back services, and at least one is considering closing because of a lack of housing for themselves and staff to rent.

The owners of a successful family cleaning business which services local accommodation providers say they may be forced to leave or move into a caravan with three of their children, because they cannot find a place to live.

Amanda and Owen Hooton said they and their children have had to leave their rental home but are struggling to find an alternative.

“It is really hard, no sleep. It is the stress.”

Her husband Owen said the holiday market has squeezed out long-term renters.

“It is that busy here with the holiday market that there are no private rentals available,” Mr Hooton said.

“For people that want to come here and work there is nothing here.”

Customers to serve, but no staff

Restaurant owner Melissa Finlay described business this year as “a rollercoaster”.

“From being shut down, no one here, scrambling ‘how we are going to survive’, to reopening and then scrambling as to how we can get enough produce in to feed everyone.”

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A lack of tourists was hurting communities like Kalbarri in April.

Her seafood restaurant is advertising for chefs and wait staff but she said it is difficult when they have nowhere to stay apart from a bed in a mixed dormitory at a backpackers.

“Since reopening I have been trying to find accommodation,” Ms Finlay said.

“I have rented one place in town, a two bedroom place that I have three of my workers in, and I have just managed to secure an unfurnished four bedroom house which I have only got for three months.

“I have a full time chef, but I need more.”

She said a local pilot and an education assistant, working second jobs, were among her wait staff.

But the accommodation shortage was making it hard to attract staff from further afield.

A waitress delivers food to four diners in an al fresco area of a restaurant
Finlays restaurant is struggling to find staff because they have nowhere to live in the booming tourist town.(ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Cecile O’Connor)

She said the restaurant has the customers to open seven days but is currently only open five evenings and one lunch because of the lack of workers.

“We cannot provide the level, the quality, and it may impact badly on Kalbarri.”

Plea for long-term rentals

A social media post by real estate agency Ray White in Kalbarri pleaded for home owners to rent their properties to long-term tenants.

“Another cry for housing help,” it read.

“Ray White Kalbarri is desperate for permanent rentals.”

It listed a description of tenants looking for homes and ended with “this is only the tip of the iceberg”.

Kalbarri has benefited from the newly opened Skywalk over the Murchison River Gorge.

Figures from the visitor centre show 12,590 people went into the centre this August — 30 per cent more than the same time last year.

July 2020 was up 25 per cent on July last year.

A spokesman for the Northampton Shire Council, which takes in Kalbarri, said the council would consider any proposal for worker accommodation but was not in a position to fund a development.



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Free airfares, accommodation to lure interstate workers to WA as home building booms


WA’s home building boom is pushing some construction companies to look interstate for workers and offer up huge incentives, including airfares and accommodation, to lure them.

Wormall Civil, an engineering construction company with infrastructure projects across Perth, is offering a suite of incentives to attract interstate workers — provided they can get approval to enter the state under COVID-19 restrictions.

Its online job ad spruiks return airfares to Perth, six months’ accommodation including utilities in “a modern fully furnished share house”, and the cost of two weeks in quarantine, among other benefits.

“Western Australia is COVID-19 free and enjoys the freedoms we are all used to,” the ad stated.

“If you’re looking for a sea change, meet the essential criteria and willing to abide by Government entry requirements.”

‘We are run off our feet’

Managing director Shane Wormall said he needed to recruit 20 to 30 workers.

“It has never been busier, we are run off our feet — as is the whole industry,” he said.

“We are extremely short-staffed presently.

“We have the resource sector here in WA that is drawing from the same pool of people as well, [and] a lot of big capital infrastructure projects.

HIA believes WA may be the only state to increase home building starts in the coming year.(ABC News: Graeme Powell)

“We’ve reached out now and tried to go out on a limb and advertised in the Northern Territory, in Queensland and in South Australia to try and get final trim machine operators here in Western Australia.

“We are looking for final trim operators, excavators, front end loaders and the likes.”

‘From historic low to historic high’

HIA executive director Cath Hart said the demand for skilled labour was a direct result of state and federal government home builder stimulus packages — $25,000 from the Federal Government and then another $20,000 from the West Australian Government.

She said new home sales data showed a 170 per cent increase in sales in the two months since the government incentives were announced, compared with the previous two months.

“When the grants were announced, the residential building industry in WA was at a 20-year low in activity, so we are effectively going from a historic low to a historic high pretty well overnight,” she said.

“So it doesn’t come as a complete surprise that we have some constraints around labour and land.”

Cath Hart smiling and standing in front of shrubs.
Cath Hart says new home sales data has skyrocketed since government incentives were announced.(ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)

Ms Hart said she hoped skilled workers who left WA after the mining boom might return to the state for work.

Worker shortage pushing wages up

“HIA’s latest forecast for residential building shows that WA will be the only state to increase home building starts in the coming year,” she said.

“And interestingly in detached housing, we are also seeing a return to pre-COVID levels of activity.”

Hays Recruiting state director Chris Kent said there was a labour shortage across mining and construction, with operator drivers in high demand.

He said it would be difficult to attract workers from interstate for short-term contracts.

“The challenge with some of this contract work is it is hard to lure families, particularly if they have to come over and isolate for two weeks for a casual position,” he said.

Chris Kent looks at the camera while sitting at a row of desks in a boardroom.
Chris Kent says some companies are putting wages up to attract workers.(ABC News: Elicia Kennedy)

“The solution is really to look to our displaced workforce and see if we can upskill them quickly and safely.”

He said some companies were pushing up wages in order to attract workers.

“It is definitely putting upward pressure on hourly rates for casual labour and casual operators,” he said.

“Really the only thing that can be done is more friendly rosters, higher wages and potentially bonuses for completion of contracts.

“Unfortunately, companies with a lesser brand will probably need to pay a little more than the big-name companies in order to attract staff.”



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Country MPs argue to keep 75km accommodation allowance limit while cancer patients miss out


For most days over the past seven weeks, 82-year-old Warren Huxtable has been travelling from his home at Goolwa, at the end of the Murray River near Victor Harbor, to Adelaide’s Flinders Medical Centre for radiotherapy to treat bowel cancer.

It is 75 kilometres each way, made much easier with the support of the Fleurieu Cancer Support Team, a group of dedicated volunteers who drive Mr Huxtable and other cancer patients between their homes and hospitals in Adelaide.

“I’ve been met by so many people with cancer that have been helped by this service,” Mr Huxtable said.

“I personally have had to come for seven weeks, which is not over yet. And I would just not have been able to manage.”

In South Australia, country residents who have to travel to see a medical specialist are entitled to travel and accommodation subsidies through the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS).

The accommodation subsidy includes a payment of up to $44 per person per night to stay in commercial accommodation.

But the scheme is only available for patients who live more than 100km from the nearest treating specialist, meaning residents of south coast towns such as Victor Harbor, Port Elliot and Goolwa, where Mr Huxtable lives, are excluded.

Tim Whetstone, Stephan Knoll and David Ridgway all handed in their resignations last month.(ABC News/Facebook: @DavidridgwayMLC)

More generous allowance for MPs

While the 100km limit applies to patients receiving PATS, a far more generous border applies to the accommodation allowances provided to country-based state MPs.

Provided their usual residence is more than 75km by road from the Adelaide General Post Office, MPs are entitled to claim up to $234 per night for expenditure incurred while staying in Adelaide on official business, up to an annual limit of $31,590.

Documents released by State Parliament last month confirmed three Liberal MPs had claimed almost half a million dollars under the Country Members Accommodation Allowance while residing on the south coast.

They are the soon-to-be replaced Legislative Council president Terry Stephens (more than $265,000), fellow legislative councillor John Dawkins (more than $168,000) and the Member for Finniss, newly appointed Minister David Basham (more than $29,000).

Yachts in the River Murray
Goolwa is a historic riverport near the mouth of the Murray.(Supplied: Kathy Bowman)

A fourth Liberal MP, former minister Stephan Knoll, has claimed more than $131,000 while residing at Angaston, in the Barossa Valley.

Like Victor Harbor, Angaston is outside the 75km limit applying to MPs allowances, but within the 100km limit which applies to PATS subsidies.

The difference between the two schemes does not make much sense to Mr Huxtable.

One elderly man standing and another sitting, both wearing hats, on a path in a park
Warren Huxtable and his partner Brian Jackson (left) would like the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme to be more generous.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

A Government spokesperson said the 100km limit for PATS was “a typical distance requirement which operates in NSW, Victoria and WA”.

“The details of country MP allowances are determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, which is independent of government,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Knoll and fellow ministers Tim Whetstone and David Ridgway resigned last month over the expenses scandal.

MP subsidy ‘doesn’t pass pub test’

Greens MLC Mark Parnell yesterday urged the state’s Remuneration Tribunal to extend the limit on country MPs’ allowances to 100km.

“The roads have much improved since these rules were first written. Maybe a trip to Victor Harbor was a big country excursion. Not anymore,” Mr Parnell said outside a private hearing.

“Most people see it as beyond the pale that someone can get over $30,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund a Victor Harbor house and an Adelaide house.

Greens leader Mark Parnell
Greens leader Mark Parnell lives in Adelaide’s southern foothills.(ABC News)

Mr Parnell was one of several MPs, including Treasurer Rob Lucas and Liberal backbencher Josh Teague, to attend yesterday’s Remuneration Tribunal hearing on MPs allowances.

The ABC sought permission to attend to report on MPs’ oral submissions but was not allowed.

In a joint written submission, Liberal MPs urged the three-member tribunal to stick to the current 75km limit.

“We strongly oppose such a change as we submit it would be unreasonable to require a country member [of parliament] to drive 100km home each night after evening functions in Adelaide which might not conclude until 10:00pm or 11:00pm,” the submission read.

In their own written submission, Labor MPs urged the tribunal to review the 75km limit “given the advancements in motor vehicles and upgrades to road infrastructure across South Australia”.

No Greens or Labor MPs live on the south coast or in the Barossa Valley.

Further changes urged

Mr Parnell has also urged the tribunal to end what he describes as the practice of “double dipping”.

Since 2015, every state MP has received a common allowance, currently worth $17,728, which is paid in lieu of an earlier travel allowance, free public transport, and lifetime free or subsidised interstate rail travel.

Mr Parnell said MPs should be forced to expend this money before claiming other allowances available to country MPs, ministers or the opposition leader.

“If members of parliament have to travel, use that money. Don’t claim extra for travel out of the public purse,” Mr Parnell said.

“They need to make the rules clearer. They need to make them fairer and they need to stop politicians from double dipping.”

The front of a house in suburban Adelaide.
Yorke Peninsula MP Fraser Ellis stayed at former Upper House president Terry Stephens’ Norwood house while in Adelaide.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

In their submission, Liberal MPs also sought clarity around how the Country Members Accommodation Allowance should be claimed.

Mr Knoll and fellow backbencher Fraser Ellis have together committed to repay almost $70,000 in allowance claims, citing what they describe as ambiguity in the tribunal’s ruling that MPs must “incur actual expenditure” to claim the allowance.

Mr Knoll spent time staying at his parents’ house in Adelaide, while Mr Ellis stayed rent free with former Upper House president Mr Stephens.

Government MPs submitted the tribunal should clarify the rule by inserting a clause specifying that actual expenditure could include “those costs of owning, renting and or maintaining accommodation, for example interest, rental, rates, maintenance and any other actual expenditure incurred in connection with the accommodation.”



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Exclusive: Scott Morrison’s high-flying $3.1 million travel and accommodation costs revealed


Scott Morrison has come to be Australia’s best-flying new Key Minister, paying extra than $3 million on intercontinental flights and lodging throughout his first 15 months in office.

It has been formerly exposed by SBS that Mr Morrison embarked on a lot more overseas journeys in his initially calendar year in place of work than just about every of his predecessors.  

New figures show the Primary Minister produced 17 global excursions to 19 nations throughout his very first 15 months in business, at a price of $3,105,537.

Figures released by the Department of Primary Minister and Cabinet and Defence show Scott Morrison’s Condition Go to to the United States of The united states was his most highly-priced international excursion, costing $527,840, together with $328,176 in Royal Australian Air Power flights.

Key Minister Scott Morrison and spouse Jenny get there for a condition go to in Washington DC.

AAP

The check out, in September 2019, was the initial abroad by a Key Minister onboard the new KC-30A aircraft, dubbed ‘Shark One’ by Scott Morrison’s aides.

The former business Qantas and JetStar plane was refurbished at a cost of $250 million.

The paperwork clearly show flights to Wapakoneta in Ohio, the place the Key Minister appeared on phase with President Trump at the Australian-owned Pratt Industries Paper Mill, price $17,553.

Ten of the Key Minister’s 17 global excursions value in extra of $100,000.

Scott Morrison’s minimum costly intercontinental pay a visit to was a $41,154 day journey to Auckland to fulfill with New Zealand Primary Minister Jacinda Ardern in February 2019. 

Top 10 PM Trips

  1. US State Go to, September 2019 – $527,840
  2. Uk / Singapore, June 2019 – $391,970
  3. G20 Argentina, November 2018 – $350,572
  4. G7 France, August 2019 – $291,747
  5. G20 Osaka, June 2019  – $287,735
  6. East Asia Summit Thailand, November 2019 – $174,504
  7. President Widodo Inauguration, Oct 2019 – $135,951
  8. UAE / Iraq, December 2018 – $181,135
  9. Pacific Island Forum, August 2019 – $119,450
  10. ASEAN Singapore, November 2018 – $115,851

“Every vacation the Key Minister makes is to advance Australia’s interests strengthening our investing associations and strengthening our countrywide security,” a spokesperson for the Key Minister advised SBS Information.

“As the Prime Minister has mentioned, he only travels abroad when it is needed and will deliver outcomes that reward Australian households and organizations.”

The spokesperson said the journey schedule bundled “additional outings to the common Prime Ministerial schedule” and did not involve deducting the cost of journalists accompanying the Prime Minister on abroad visits.

 

US President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minster Scott Morrison during a rally in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

US President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minster Scott Morrison through a rally in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

EPA

The COVID-19 pandemic has intended the Prime Minister has not produced any intercontinental visits due to the fact he attended the East Asia Summit in Thailand in November 2019, cancelling planned visits to Japan and India, co-internet hosting a sequence of “virtual summits” in its place.

“I hope that digital summits are section of the foreseeable future,” the Primary Minister told reporters in Canberra.

“I believe there is not often been a more frenetic time period in which an Australian Key Minister has engaged with other leaders but the traditional technique of leaders coming together also are not able to be underestimated.

“I suggest, I you should not assume it truly is a question of ‘either’ ‘or’, I seem forward to a time the place you can do equally.”

The bills have raised eyebrows in Canberra, notably provided the Prime Minister’s community critique of what he identified as “negative globalism”.

“Most Australians will see these travel charges as really significant and will not likely realize how it is that a Prime Minister could spend this amount of money on journey in just fifteen months”, Labor Senator Tim Ayres told SBS News.

“This Key Minter and his close friends in the authorities have been very vital of preceding Labor Prime Ministers who invested much less travelling all over the world putting Australia’s fascination to start with.”

 

Michael Shoebridge from the Australian Strategic Coverage Institute told SBS News the investment decision in meeting international counterparts in human being has probably served all through the pandemic. 

“If you want Australians to be risk-free and prosperous, then you want our government and our management to be engaged with the environment and that is a cheap rate for individuals outcomes,” he explained.

“Scott Morrison was at the G20 meeting in the center of last year and he fulfilled a bunch of earth leaders there.

“That intended that when the pandemic hit and folks couldn’t meet up with encounter to experience, he already experienced that reservoir of associations and rapport, he’s already achieved them physically, and that helps make the digital meeting far a lot more effective.”



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SA corruption watchdog to investigate accommodation allowance for country MPs


South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) Bruce Lander has confirmed he will examine 10 years of allowances paid to country MPs, amid an investigation.

The $234 Country Members Accommodation Allowance is only payable to regional MPs, whose homes are more than 75-kilometres from Adelaide, for when they are required to spend a night in the city on official business.

Both houses of Parliament released 10 years’ worth of allowance records on Tuesday, prompting five Liberal MPs to amend dates they had claimed it, and three of those MPs to repay a total of more than $70,000.

Documents relating to the claims remained secret until they were released earlier this week after an ABC investigation into the eligibility of some MPs.

The State Government has also promised greater scrutiny of the allowance scheme.

MPs to repay more than $70,000

Mr Lander’s statement comes amid a deepening expenses scandal sparked by the release of a decade’s worth of expense records.

Transport Minister Stephan Knoll, Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone and backbencher Fraser Ellis, have collectively agreed to repay more than $70,000.

Mr Ellis will repay the biggest portion — $42,130.

Barossa-based Mr Knoll, who will repay more than $29,000, has often stayed with his parents in Adelaide while claiming the allowance.

SA Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone and Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll.(ABC News)

On Wednesday, refused to say what expenses he faced while staying with them, but repeatedly said “I do incur expenses”.

It has also been revealed ministers Knoll and Whetstone billed taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for regional, interstate and overseas travel on the same days they incorrectly claimed the allowance.

Premier Steven Marshall has said the payments were claimed in error and denied there had been any deliberate wrongdoing.

But Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas called on the Premier to “finally show leadership and sack his ministers”.



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School holiday accommodation selling out in WA, but coronavirus pain not over for tourism sector


The July school holidays are just around the corner and West Australians are hitting the road.

It will be the first opportunity for many locals to travel further afield since WA’s intrastate borders opened, and accommodation providers around the state are seeing visitors flow back.

At Albany Harbourside Apartments and Houses, the phone has been running hot.

Manager Mia Wareing said the bookings rolling through meant they would be able to re-hire people they were forced to let go when the COVID-19 crisis began.

One Albany accommodation provider is starting to see bookings pick up again after the COVID crisis.(ABC News: Mark Bennett)

“It’s really amazing.”

The Parks and Wildlife Service reported eager campers snapped up 1,300 available slots in the first five hours after advance booking restrictions were lifted, and the average since had been 400 bookings per day — double last year’s average of 200 per day.

RAC data also revealed a 40 per cent increase in bookings to their holiday parks and resorts from July to September compared to last year, with their Monkey Mia, Karri Valley and Ningaloo Reef locations seeing the biggest spike.

Meanwhile on Rottnest Island, holidaymakers have booked 95 per cent of the available accommodation for the school holidays.

Tour operators not seeing the same boost

But while accommodation providers are seeing a spike from locals eager to hit the road and travel within the state, tour operators have not experienced the same demand.

A van drives through Pinnacles Desert
With WA getting back to normal, West Australians are set to hit the road for the school holidays.(ABC Open contributor Vinnie Prestom)

Kalbarri Scenic Flights manager Jessica Thorpe-Gudgeon said the difference had been stark up on the state’s Coral Coast.

“For our units that we manage, we’re fully booked — the second borders reopened, phones were ringing off the hook and we have no space left,” she said.

At this time of year, the company would usually have multiple flights a day, and a number of big groups — usually from the Asian market — keen to see sights like the Pink Lake or the Abrolhos Islands.

Ms Thorpe-Gudgeon said the small numbers on the few bookings that had been made would barely break even.

“The next couple of weeks is probably going to be a big show for us of what it’s going to be like for the next year or two, from what the figures are showing,” she said.

“If we get good bookings, then it means we’ve at least got those peak periods we can hold out for. If we don’t, it’s going to be a bit scary.”

A woman with long blonde hair poses for a photo wearing a black and white top and red lipstick in front of a tourism display.
Kalbarri Scenic Flights manager Jessica Thorpe-Gudgeon says the lack of tour bookings is “heartbreaking”.(ABC News: Jessica Warriner)

Ms Thorpe-Gudgeon said while she understood why local tourists tended to not book tours and experiences, she encouraged holidaymakers to try something new.

“It’s a bit heartbreaking … I think the most disappointing thing I hear sometimes from locals is, ‘Oh it’s too expensive, your prices are too high,'” she said.

“You go, ‘Well I’m trying to make it as easy to afford as I possibly can, I can’t run it at a loss.'”

East Kimberley at crisis point

Further north, while some businesses in Broome have seen a glimmer of hope for school holiday bookings, for tourism providers in the East Kimberley, the extra distance is proving dire.

El Questro and Home Valley Station are staying closed for the season, and Lake Argyle Resort owner Charlie Sharpe said while his business was normally open year-round, there were times he wished he had done the same.

A head and shoulders shot of an older balding man outdoors wearing a khaki polo shirt and sunglasses.
Lake Argyle Resort owner Charlie Sharpe says Kununurra is like the last stop on the WA train line.(ABC News)

“Financially, we would have been better pulling the plug on the first of April,” he said.

“We’re operating but it’s at our own expense.”

Mr Sharpe said the caravan park was usually at “110 per cent capacity” over the July school holidays and he needed to turn people away, but this year, it would be under 20 per cent full.

“We’ve done a fair bit of research over the last three or four weeks as the regions opened up. The further you got away from Perth, the less people filtered through,” he said.

“A few people pulled up in the [Bungle] Bungles this week, an operator opened up down there, and they mentioned they asked a few guests, ‘Are you going up to the East Kimberley next, into Kununurra?’

“And they said, ‘No, we’re going back to Broome.'”

Flight shuffle compounds pain

Mr Sharpe said the small amount of bookings that had come through for the school holidays at Lake Argyle been severely hurt by recent flight changes.

A man and a young girl walk along rocks by the side of Lake Argyle.
The tourism outlook at Lake Argyle remains dire with the nearby WA border still closed.(ABC News: Elicia Kennedy)

“We were holding fairly good bookings given the circumstances up until about two weeks ago. A lot of those bookings were people who were booked back in April to come up for Easter, and they deferred until the July holidays,” he said.

“The Northern Territory people now know they can’t get in, so they’ve cancelled, then the Perth people hung on, and the flights started changing and rearranging.

“Some could get here but couldn’t get home. They couldn’t rebook, couldn’t get seats.”

Transport minister Rita Saffioti said the State Government was aware of the problem and was negotiating with Virgin and AirNorth.

“We’re currently in negotiations and we’re hoping to be able to make some further announcements soon,” she said.

The Government announced additional Rex regional flights this week to Albany, Esperance and Carnarvon to help boost the COVID-19 recovery.

Hopes for future after holidays

Beyond the school holidays, providers were hopeful interest would continue as West Australians seek local adventures.

In Albany, Ms Wareing said bookings were getting back on track for Christmas and New Year, and there was even some unexpected demand.

A close-up shot of a young woman walking on a mobile phone in front of a mirror.
The phone has been running hot at Ms Wareing’s Albany accommodation ahead of the holidays.(ABC News: Mark Bennett)

“Typically August and September we’re really quiet, but I think we’re already at the normal capacity in terms of bookings, and that’s just going to pick up more as people want to travel,” she said.

In Kununurra, Mr Sharpe was hopeful the September-October school holidays would bring a boost if the WA border was reopened, with around 85 per cent of his visitors normally coming from interstate.

“We’ll work very, very hard as soon as that border comes down,” he said.



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