With so much talk and social media comments about visitors holidaying in Port Stephens in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to put the public's mind at ease in regard to a few contentious issues.
There is a perception that some property owners prefer to holiday let so they can use the property themselves, however, the reality is many properties can potentially earn more income through holiday letting than through permanent renting.
As for holiday accommodation providers, the majority use the same booking portals (such as booking.com and Airbnb) as well as their own websites. Booking.com was the first portal to acknowledge cancellations with no penalties.
Most guests cancelled their own bookings and we only had to cancel a few stragglers. We have actively been doing this since mid-March and all holiday property owners were communicated accordingly. Even though this was definitely going to affect their rental income, property owners were all very understanding that this was not negotiable.
Our team contacted every guest individually to offer them free cancellation unless they wished to move their booking to a later date. As there is much uncertainty as to when we will recover from COVID-19, most opted for the free cancellation.
Guests that arrived prior to the lockdown had to complete a COVID-19 declaration, while all cleaners and tradespeople were asked to ramp up their procedures and complete the declaration.
All owners were emailed advising they were not permitted to visit or stay at their holiday property, unless it was under the 'exception' rules.
We even received a few 'secret shopper' calls asking for availability and cost of holiday rentals, and we advised them we were not taking any April or May bookings. Additionally, the Local Area Command was instructed to visit all main holiday accommodation providers to ensure they were not accepting bookings and that they were following the strict COVID-19 health regulations.
Many real estate offices, like ours, are still operating with skeleton staff or working from home. Rental departments are keeping both tenants and landlords updated on any new legislation and offering relevant assistance. By supporting each other I am confident we will ride this storm out and come out the other side bigger and better.
- Debra O'Neill is the managing director of Raine & Horne Nelson Bay