Regional tourism confidence returns

Limestone Coast accommodation bookings have rebounded in recent months as people regain confidence to travel again following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limestone Coast Local Government Association executive officer Tony Wright said the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) March 2022 latest dataset revealed occupancy rates reached 75% in the region.

Mr Wright said SATC statistics indicated occupancy rates in January 2020 at the start of the pandemic, were approximately 59% and dropped dramatically to 8% by May 2020.

“So that’s the initial impact of COVID and restrictions and closing the borders,” he said.

“But then there was a pretty steady recovery with a few little hiccups as different rules changed and different variants came through.”

By January 2021 occupancy rates increased to 72%, overtaking the January 2020 figures.

The Commodore director Michael Kosch reported a strong June period and said business had remained strong since December 24, when people felt comfortable to move around and cross borders again.

He said the hotel finished June with approximately 86% occupancy and July was also appearing strong.

“We’re a full house during the week most nights and weekends are stronger than traditional levels as well,” he said.

“Most weeks we have got some significant-sized functions that are a big help, they bring a lot of people through our doors,” Mr Kosch said.

“It’s good to see people having fun and doing those sorts of things again after a couple of years absence.”

Mr Kosch said Victorian and interstate guests represented over 50% of their total accommodation and without interstate travel their numbers suffered significantly.

“Accommodation income was down and the number (was) consistent with that Victorian component taken out, so about 50% down during that period,” he said.

The Kosch family also operates The Henty, Delgattie Estate and Colhurst House and Mr Kosch said there were good signs all around the region.

Penola’s Alexander Cameron Suites relief manager Ralph Sharp said, on behalf of owners Paul and Tanya Morris, guests were very happy to be back travelling again.

“Definitely people are really enjoying being out and enjoying the area,” Mr Sharp said.

“We have a positive outlook, it was good visitation last year even though we did have hiccups with COVID, obviously people would book and cancel and we’d give full refunds in those circumstances.

“It’s still happening, that’s still an issue, we have had several cancellations (last) weekend because they got COVID.

“But generally bookings here, the visitation is picking up.”

Mr Sharp said they were receiving quite a few advanced bookings however this “was nothing like they were previously”.

“Before COVID people would book for next year and that sort of thing, they’re not booking that far ahead at the moment but the bookings are still coming through,” he said.

Port MacDonnell Customs House owner Emma Fensom said bookings were relatively “spasmodic” and also said people were not booking as far in advance as pre-COVID.

“We kind of find Victorians travel this way, whereas South Australians travel the other way, we do find that we’re probably busier in the Victorian school holidays more so than ours,” Mrs Fensom said.

“But having said that, that might not be the case, we might get last-minute bookings.

“We’re not too bad for the school holidays, we have got a few bookings but could definitely have more.

“It is winter so it is a bit quieter than usual.”

Mrs Fensom believed current petrol prices and the cost of living would likely play a big part in travel as holidays were considered more of a luxury.

She said an international visitor stayed last week and they were seeing more and more visiting the region to see family rather than just visiting on a casual holiday.

Mrs Fensom encouraged people to call and book accommodation directly rather than using booking channels and said those who booked direct would often receive a better deal.

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