How three days in paradise has turned into a recurring nightmare for iconic resort

The rooms were fully booked, the staff roster was at its peak and supplies of perishables had been shipped in. Then the plug was pulled and a three-day lockdown was announced.

Mar 30, 2021, updated Mar 30, 2021

Instead of a booming week leading up to Easter and the school holidays, Tangalooma Resort, on Moreton Island, is looking at losses of at least $1.5 million and “much, much worse” if the restrictions extend into Easter and the school holidays.

Tangalooma gets swept into the lockdown because Moreton Island is part of Greater Brisbane. It was also affected by the three-day lockdown in January which “conservatively” cost it $1.5 million, according to its director of marketing  Bernard O’Keefe.

The Chamber of Commerce has also said this lockdown could be the tipping point for many small businesses. After more than a year of on-and-off restrictions retailers are also complaining about the lack of a national approach and consistency.

The Australian Hotels Association has joined with CCIQ in calling for financial support for affected businesses as tourism companies as far away as Cairns get swept up in the Greater Brisbane lockdown.

The ABC reported that Cairns Adventure had been swamped with cancellations while the Brisbane Holiday Village had lost $20,000 in bookings in the space of a few hours.

Tourism-related companies, like Flight Centre, also saw their shares on the ASX tumble yesterday. Virgin said it had been swamped by calls and directed people who were not travelling in the next three days to call back or visit the website. Its flights into and out of Brisbane were operating as normal but the airline said that could change.

The Tangalooma resort offers a snapshot into how the lockdowns will impact tourism.

“We expect it to be as bad or much, much worse if (the current lockdown) extends beyond three days,” O’Keefe said.

“We spent (yesterday) evacuating hundreds of guests from the resort and processing refunds and credits for upcoming guests.

“This is during a week when we had full occupancy, full staffing levels and full supplies of perishables leading into the school holiday peak season.

“If the lockdown extends into Easter it will be an enormous hit.

“Once the lockdown ends it will take us at least four to six weeks and considerable marketing spend to see booking confidence to return from interstate markets.

“(Our) fingers are definitely crossed for some better news in the days ahead.”

The State Government’s Tourism and Events Queensland said guests who were currently on an island within the Greater Brisbane region can return home during the lockdown period. However, these guests should travel directly home and then continue to comply with the stay-at-home direction, only leaving home for essential reasons.

Head of industry affairs at the Australian Retailers Association Fleur Brown said the Covid threat was still alive and new cases in the community remain an ongoing risk, despite the rollout of the vaccines.

“We need a national approach to Covid restrictions and lockdowns. At the moment, retailers are at the mercy of the different state and territory leaders as to who, how and when they must respond to snap lockdowns with less and less warning and no clarity on the frameworks for those lockdowns and which retailers they affect.

“More than a year in, there hasn’t been any consistency, which is incredibly frustrating,” Brown said.

“We hope the Queensland health authorities get on top of this quickly and the lockdown doesn’t go on for longer than is necessary.

“These lockdowns come at tremendous cost to retail, with no safety net in place – which is why we need better standards and protocols to be considered across borders to nationalise the response and save unnecessary cost.

“There’s no doubt this will have an impact on Queensland businesses. Some workers will be temporarily stood down, businesses will be out of pocket and fresh produce will have to be dumped.”





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