Keeping Sapphire Coast COVID-safe amid school holiday visitation

Tourism operators on the Sapphire Coast are being encouraged to stay COVIDsafe amid school holiday visitation. Photo: David Rogers Photography
Tourism operators on the Sapphire Coast are being encouraged to stay COVIDsafe amid school holiday visitation. Photo: David Rogers Photography

Following a cautionary call from the NSW Premier, tourism operators across the Sapphire Coast are being urged to review bookings from visitors travelling from Melbourne's spiking virus hotspots. However, it seems not everyone is getting the message.

Last week, Anthony Osborne of Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing said tourism operators "should remind ourselves of the need to take maximum precautions to protect our community from COVID-19".

However, he added that it was likely the majority of visitors in the coming weeks "will not originate from areas anywhere near Melbourne".

Lisa Nimmo owns and manages Merimbula and Eden Holiday Rentals, which is the largest holiday rental specialist in the region with around 100 premises on its books.

She said they took it upon themselves as soon as they heard Gladys Berejiklian's statement to call every guest who had booked with them for the school holiday period - around 300 of them - to ask where they worked and lived "and to make it as easy as possible if they wanted to cancel their booking and get a refund"

"It was to tell them we were making the call to make sure it's as safe as possible for them, and for us.

"People need to be smarter about it. We can't get Christmas back but what we can do is look ahead.

"If we get any cases [of coronavirus] here, tourism will shut down for another three months. If we keep it out we can have a cracking July and August."

Ms Nimmo said her team's decision to contact and refund all guests wishing to cancel was not about telling others how to run their business, but in the hope they would follow suit for the good of the sector and the Sapphire Coast community.

"We need to be thankful for what we have and what we've been able to achieve so far," Ms Nimmo said.

Meanwhile, one couple, who wished to remain anonymous, said they had a relative planning to visit Merimbula and an elderly mother in the local nursing home. They were considerate enough to rethink the trip as they live in one of Melbourne's "hotspots".

However, the agency they booked through apparently made every effort to encourage them to come anyway, and only refunded their deposit once ACCC was contacted.

Mr Osborne said keeping the region "COVIDsafe" was a shared responsibility between visitors and operators.

"Should you have visitors coming from the hotspot areas, you should contact them to discuss any concerns, and if required offer a credit or reschedule the booking," Mr Osborne advised.

"Likewise I would encourage all operators, to contact all their bookings to reinforce expectations around COVID-19 safe behaviour. It is important to your community that you and your guests follow the prescribed distancing and hygiene practises."