Holiday bookings stay strong despite outbreak

The latest outbreak of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in Port Stephens has failed to deter visitors heading to the region for the upcoming summer school holidays.

Port Stephens tourism and small business operators are banking on a bumper season following a patchy 2021 which started with a bang but has been turned on its head firstly by the introduction of the Delta virus and more recently the Omicron strain.

As of Tuesday, the majority of accommodation bookings in Port Stephens had held steady and businesses were hopeful that the spread of the latest outbreak does not have the same devastating impact as the initial pandemic.

Destination Port Stephens CEO Eileen Gilliland said that there was limited accommodation available from December 23 until mid-January.

“Again we are seeing many of our visitors arriving from Sydney and regional NSW. It is important that people be patient and kind to the staff working in the tourism, hospitality and retail industries during this busy time as local businesses have been impacted by staff shortages,” she said. “Many staff are working longer hours to serve locals and visitors so remember they are doing their best to provide a quality experience.”

Port Stephens Council’s holiday parks section manager Kim Latham said that bookings at its five holiday parks – Fingal Bay, Shoal Bay, Halifax, Thou Walla and Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary – were around the 80 per cent occupancy rate, but that number was expected to reach more than 95 per cent in January.

“At present two-thirds (67%) of our bookings originate from Sydney, 26 per cent are from the Hunter and Central Coast, with the remaining 7 per cent coming from intrastate and interstate. The majority of reservations comprise families staying for extended periods,” she said. “Bookings at the holiday parks remain strong all the way to Easter 2023.”

Will Creedon, owner of Alloggio which looks after hundreds of holiday and rental properties operating in Port Stephens and right across the east coast of Australia, said that the small number of cancellations due to the latest COVID outbreak were being picked up by visitors from regional NSW.

“We are finding this time round that holidaymakers are holidaying in their own state and are resisting the urge to cross borders,” he said. “People are being responsible, careful and sensible about where they holiday.”

Mr Creedon said that there had been a renewed confidence in the accommodation market in Port Stephens since August and even more so during October, November and early December.

“In fact our bookings are very strong right through January to April and into the July school holidays. People are booking well ahead which is great news for the tourist market in Port Stephens.”

Nelson Bay Breeze holiday apartments manager Les Merrett said that they were booked out up to January 10, 2022.

“We have a few vacancies after that date until the end of the school holidays.”

He said that there had only been a single cancellation following the latest COVID outbreak and that “the next week will be the big test… if positive cases blow out we could be in for a few more cancellations”.

Ms Gilliland said that Port Stephens had plenty to offer from incredible outdoor experiences such as sandboarding, quad biking and camel rides to beach and sand dune adventures.

“There is so much do in the great outdoors,” she said.

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