Holiday bookings boom

Kathryn Garrow. (Louisa Jones) 232279_03

By Luke Voogt

Geelong and Bellarine caravan parks have experienced a surge in bookings ahead of COVID-19 restrictions easing today, following the “worst” lockdown for local tourism yet.

“The school holidays are looking good, and now they’ve shut NSW, they’re looking even better,” said Lorraine Golightly, owner-operator of BIG4 Beacon Resort in Queenscliff.

“We’ll be full for the school holidays. We’ve still gaps, but they’re filling fast. This first weekend is normally quiet but that’s booked out too.”

But the boom would “absolutely not” make up for losses the businesses suffered from the “worst” and most recent lockdown, and subsequent restrictions, Ms Golightly said.

“We were fully-booked for that weekend and we ended up with one reservation left.

“It was an unknown of how long it would be for, so we kept the park fully-operational. I had to have my full reception staff here with people cancelling.”n

Geelong accommodation providers and restaurant and cafe owners could not continue to bear the brunt of continuous lockdowns after the ending of JopKeeper, Ms Golightly said.

“There’s no government support now – this can’t keep going on.”

Barwon River Holiday Park in Belmont suffered similar losses from recent restrictions.

“The grants that have been available for us don’t even cover a quarter of our staff wages,” manager Kathryn Garrow said.

“But we definitely noticed an increase in phone calls yesterday (Wednesday) following the announcement restrictions would ease further.”

Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine executive director Brett Ince said increases to home visitors today would encourage Melburnians to visit relatives and friends in Geelong.

The change in restrictions would also allow more and larger group bookings and have positive flow-on effects for Geelong cafes and restaurants, he said.

Mr Ince said the Geelong Winter Shiraz Festival, the Bellarine Lighthouse Film Festival and Adventure Park’s new Winter Glow Festival would draw visitors, along with plans for a 85 per cent capacity crowd at Geelong Cats’ next home game at GMHBA Stadium.