Boost in bookings a reprieve for struggling tourism industry
BOOKING and inquiry numbers are indicating some reprieve for Coffs Harbour's struggling tourism operators ahead of the school holidays.
That's according to Fiona Barden, Section Leader Industry and Destination Development at Coffs Harbour City Council, who says a number of strategies are now being put into place to help the local tourism industry recover after being crippled by COVID-19 restrictions.
The Coffs tourism industry, which consists of over 830 tourism operators, normally welcomes around 1.6m visitors a year.
"We normally see a lot of people escaping to warmer weather in these holidays and with restrictions still in place regarding where people can and can't travel, we are expecting to see a number of people around," Ms Barden said.
"Bookings and inquiries have indicated that tourism in Coffs will indeed be picking up."
This comes as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state's borders will re-open from July 10. This means tourists are able to travel between NSW, the ACT and Queensland.
People are being advised to avoid travelling to and from Victoria as the state experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases, and borders are still closed for Tasmania, SA and NT.
Meanwhile from today, pubs, cafes, restaurants, as well as functions including weddings in NSW can hold any number of people as long as social distancing requirements are adhered to.
Ms Barden said most of Coffs Harbour's attractions have now reopened, but are operating at smaller hours or at smaller capacity.
The Big Banana which has reopened today (July 1) marks the final local attraction to open its doors once again.
"Coffs tourism operators have obviously been severely impacted by COVID-19. Most had to close down, and while accommodation was able to open there was a high level of restrictions on what could and could not be done.
"It's been a hard knock particularly on the back of fires and floods. But they're a resilient group of people and they've had to learn how to change the way they deliver their services."
Moving forward, Ms Barden said council and tourism operators have been working together on a number of strategies the rebuild the industry.
Among these is the Coffs Coast Businesses Care initiative. Businesses are able to register with this program once they have put into place a CovidSafe plan, which ensures staff and customers are following government health and safety recommendations.
Businesses that are part of this initiative are then eligible to be listed on the Coffs Coast destination website, and are given posters and stickers to show they have been identified as a CovidSafe business.
"It's a two-pronged approach. This program shows our visitors that our businesses are on top of things and are implementing COVID-19 safety measures, while also reassuring the local community that our businesses are working safely."
The Industry and Destination Development team have also developed a number of itineraries for niche markets that are being rolled out through blog posts and social media, and have also launched its Coffs Coast Bucket List for visitors.
The bucket list promotes five experiences unique to the area - including the Solitary Islands Coastal Walk, the World-Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest, Coffs Skydivers, the Giingan Gumbaynggirr Cultural Experience, and Jetty Dive tours to swim with the Humpback Whales.
Ms Barden urged locals to consider holidaying at home and support local businesses this winter break.
"Locals are tourists in their own backyard, one of the best things we can do is to buy local and support locals," she said.