Port Stephens holiday cancellations high amid coronavirus non-essential travel ban

PROPERTY: Alloggio owner Will Creedon at Zenith At Shoal Bay, one of the 700 holiday properties his company manages. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

PROPERTY: Alloggio owner Will Creedon at Zenith At Shoal Bay, one of the 700 holiday properties his company manages. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

An explosion of travel cancellations has left many Port Stephens accommodation businesses in financial ruin as restrictions, forced by the ongoing coronavirus crisis, decimate a ravaged industry still coming to terms with an unprecedented summer of drought and bushfires.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of the Port's hotels, motels, resorts and holiday parks were relying on an economic lifeline through the upcoming Easter school holidays - one of the Port's peak holiday periods.

Those hopes have now been dashed.

The economic cost of losing 75,000-plus visitations over the traditionally strong two-week April school holiday season, according to leading accommodation analyst Will Creedon, will have short and long lasting impacts.

"We are fully supportive of the health warnings and advice from authorities for people to stay at home during this pandemic," said Mr Creedon, owner of Alloggio which looks after 700 rental properties operating under Port Stephens Accommodation, Winnings Holidays and Holidays Port Stephens.

"All holiday bookings have now been cancelled affecting Port Stephens businesses, the community, its people, team members and their families.

"There are both direct and indirect impacts and they will be felt long into the winter months. I suspect some will not return."

AERIAL VIEW: A past image of One Mile holiday park and beach during the summer.

AERIAL VIEW: A past image of One Mile holiday park and beach during the summer.

Anyone found ignoring the government advice forbidding all non-essential domestic travel could expect to be severely penalised, with fines of up to $1000.

"People should avoid non-essential travel within NSW and remain at their primary place of residence. Holiday travel planned or booked for the Easter school holidays should be cancelled or postponed," NSW Police warned.

State MP Kate Washington described the situation as "exceptionally difficult times and for a tourist area to turn tourists away is ordinarily unfathomable.

"However, the current public health crisis demands this action and my priority lies in protecting the vulnerable community I represent."

Caravan parks and camping grounds - including five owned and operated by Port Stephens Council netting around $3 million a year - have also closed to the public, except for people who are permanent residents, those who have no other safe permanent residence or those who are travelling for work.

Meanwhile, the Tomaree Business Chamber has commended the NSW Government's announcement of a $750 million fund to provide grants for small and micro businesses affected by coronavirus.

Eligible businesses with fewer than 20 employees can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 under the scheme.

Chamber business manager Peter Clough said that around 40 per cent of Port businesses would benefit "so any assistance in keeping them operating at capacity, including the retention of staff, is welcomed".

"In Port Stephens in 2019 there were 1975 businesses that have between one and 19 employees. We encourage local eligible businesses to apply for the state funding if they are not already eligible for other forms of COVID-19 government assistance," he said.

"Application forms will be up on the Services NSW website by April 17 and the grants will be available to be applied until June 1. Turnover must be above $75,000 and the payroll can be up to $900,000 per annum."

Mr Clough said that the chamber would continue to encourage the community to shop locally - while practicing social distancing rules - to ensure a strong business environment, which provides employment for a significant portion of the 27,000 jobs in Port Stephens.

Port Stephens Council has also established a support program to assist those businesses in need of support and advice as a result of COVID-19. The program aims to connect businesses with government support, advice and professional services.

"The service will ensure business can talk to someone who can help them find the right information they need by telephoning 4988 0255 or emailing ed@portstephens.nsw.gov.au," said mayor Ryan Palmer.

"The council will regularly communicate with business via its Bizlink program, Destination Port Stephens and business chambers, and through its strong relationships with state and federal governments."

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