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Australia Tourism bookings explode ahead of Tasmania's December border opening

22:26  27 october  2021
22:26  27 october  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Tasmania is gearing up for a bumper tourism season as forward bookings go "ballistic" and travellers flock to the Spirit of Tasmania, but hospitality venues say they will struggle to find the staff to keep up with the "chaos".

Last Friday, the Tasmanian government announced its plan to reopen borders on December 15, ending the uncertainty for tourism businesses across the state.

Between Friday and Sunday, almost $3 million worth of bookings were made for the Spirit of Tasmania.

Meanwhile, Hobart Airport says it was expecting its busiest December yet, with 5 per cent more flights than the previous busiest December, in 2019.

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January is shaping up to crush its past record by 25 per cent.

It is the same in the north of the state.

Launceston Airport is set to welcome almost 1,650 flights between December 15 and January 15 — a 242 per cent increase on the number of flights in September.

Chief executive at Visit Northern Tasmania, Chris Griffins, said they were also hearing from industry that their "forward bookings have gone ballistic".

"We knew Tassie was going to be in high demand as soon as the borders reopened," he said.

"It's a good shot in the arm in terms of confidence coming into the summer after what has been a pretty miserable winter."

General manager at Josef Chromy, Shaine Devenny, said setting a date for borders to reopen was the "final step" in giving people the confidence to return to their normal travel plans.

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"It's so exciting to see the recent interest in tourism since the roadmap announcement," she said.

"Once travellers get confident, gain more confidence around the border conditions, we're going to see a flurry of activity similar to what we would see in a normal year and our key season."

She said they were already seeing an influx of people as a result of the direct flights from South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.

"Once New South Wales and Victoria are able to join that club, I'm sure it'll be a magnificent season once again," she said.

Owner of Rockwall in Salamanca, Garry Baker, had another word for it.

"December is always a massive month. It'll probably create more chaos with the borders open," he said.

Mr Baker has been working in hospitality for "30 odd years" and has seen the compound growth in Tasmania's tourism industry.

"I know that the Victorians in particular are breaking the doors down to get over here … as soon as they can come in, they will be coming in," he said.

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But with international borders having been closed for the past 18 months, they are struggling for staff.

"Our biggest problem is getting enough staff," he said.

"In the past, we've had all the overseas backpackers that have come through and filled our gaps up with the staff but obviously the last two years they've been missing."

Christmas cancelled due to no staff

Mr Baker said a lack of staff has forced them to close on Christmas for the first time in more than a decade.

"It was going to be our 14th year of Christmas Day — we're one of the few restaurants that open for Christmas Day — we had 180 people booked," he said.

"We didn't have the staff numbers to cater for Christmas Day, so three weeks ago we had to spend a whole day cancelling the bookings, which really made people quite sad.

"A lot of them were coming year, after year, after year."

Managing director of NRMA Expeditions, which runs Freycinet Lodge and Cradle Mountain hotel, Andrew Paynter, confirmed that staffing was a struggle.

"It's been a challenge on or off for the last couple of years, more so in the specialist areas," he said.

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"Chefs predominantly, and front office staff with admin skills have been a problematic for a period of time now."

Mr Paynter said while he was looking forward to seeing the borders open, there were still questions that need to be answered.

"[We need to know] how will we react as a business, when, not if, we do have a positive case within one of our businesses," he said.

Mr Paynter said he also thought the need to get a negative test before entering the state could be "problematic" and have the "potential to soften demand".

"Certainly at peak periods the ability to procure a test and to pay for it, especially for large families wanting to travel to Tasmania, could be quite problematic," he said.

In a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson said "businesses and tourism operators can access information and guidance via the Tourism Tasmania and Business Tasmania website".

"Any changes to current public health advice will be communicated to operators prior to 15 December," the spokesperson said.

More information on the current state of restrictions can be found on the Tasmanian government's coronavirus website.

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