Australia's Covid-19 weary tourism operators count cost of floods
For Carol Curry, manager of the Marina Holiday Park, 330km (205 miles) north of Sydney, the Easter long weekend and school holidays were to be a big finish to the tourist season after a year battered by Covid-19 restrictions.
Instead, she's sloshing through mud to reach cabins destroyed by floods after torrential rains battered Australia's east coast earlier this month and trying to contact guests to cancel bookings.
“The park went under and so did all our reservation books and computers and things like that, so it's been a bit of a challenge,” Curry told Reuters at the waterfront park she has taken care of for five years.
“We actually had guests turn up last night to check in, so unfortunately they had to go elsewhere.”
Tourism is a major contributor to Australia's economy, generating about A$61 billion ($47 billion) in 2018/19 and employing about 5% of the country's workforce, according to Tourism Australia.
The sector was hard hit when Australia effectively sealed its international borders early last year to protect against Covid-19, while a series of internal border closures to stem outbreaks added to the pain.
With an easing of internal restrictions earlier this year, operators were primed for a bumper holiday period ahead of the slower winter months when the devastating east coast floods washed away their hopes.
At the nearby Stoney Aqua Park, which offers camping and water skiing around a now mostly destroyed obstacle course, co-owner Anissa Manton, said she was facing significant financial losses.
“We were solidly booked out,” she said. “We were looking forward to a huge season.”
Manton said she's been advised her insurance policy won't cover flood damage, and the park now faces a six-month cleanup.
Meanwhile, the pain for tourism looks set to continue, with a new Covid-19 outbreak in northern Queensland state, a popular holiday destination, putting Easter holiday plans on hold for thousands of visitors.