Six Great Southern tourism operators were able to breathe a sigh of relief this week after the announcement of $8.7 million in State Government COVID-19 tourism survival grants.
But with WA’s hard border restrictions remaining firm, local experience tourism operators typically bolstered by interstate and international visitors say they are still navigating uncharted waters.
Of the 266 tourism survival grant recipients across WA this week, only six were from the Great Southern.
Busy Blue Bus Tours, Albany’s Historic Whaling Station, Denmark Good Food Factory, Galafrey Wines, The Beach House at Bayside and The Lake House Denmark received grants ranging from $15,000 to $100,000 to cover operating costs.
Busy Blue Bus Tours director Susan McCabe said the January bushfires, followed by the COVID-19 crisis, had meant many WA tourism operators had been experiencing low customer booking rates since January.
Some had also found themselves shut out of JobKeeper payments.
“I had zero bookings from the middle of March right through until early June when I got a trickle of booking re-emerging,” Ms McCabe said.
“There were four months where I had absolutely no income. On the back of low income and with no forecast into the future of there being any more customers, it was looking pretty grim.”
Ms McCabe said despite customer bookings picking up since July, it was hard to predict the future.
“It gives me such relief to know on the back of no income … I can keep my business going until the traditional peak period — if there is ever going to be a traditional peak period into the future,” she said.
After being forced to shut the doors for 100 days, Albany’s Historic Whaling Station general manager Elise van Gorp said they were thrilled to receive the funding.
The not-for-profit group will use it to cover basic costs such as insurance and maintenance.
Ms van Gorp said the team had enjoyed a record-breaking July school-holiday period, which was typically one of the quietest times of the year.
But she said it would be difficult to predict what the summer months might bring.
“From all reports, I understand that accommodation in town is already well booked out ahead, even until the end of January, which is fantastic,” she said.