Blue Mountains News
Blue Mountains tourism prepares to re-open
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was expected to hit its 70 per cent vaccination goal on October 11, with the 80 per cent target due to be reached about two weeks after that.
From the Monday after that milestone, fully vaccinated residents will enjoy a raft of freedoms, including travel anywhere in NSW, going to the pub, attending events (limited numbers), dining in restaurants and attending weddings.
Unvaccinated people may join those freedoms from December 1.
Since June 26, residents and businesses had experienced deserted streets, quiet bush tracks, a free-flowing highway and locals-only snow days for the first time in decades.
Blue Mountains Tourism (BMT) president Jason Cronshaw expected a period of adjustment and encouraged businesses and locals to again prepare to share one of the most recognisable landscapes on Earth with thousands of visitors.
"The past 18 months has been an emotional rollercoaster that started with the bushfires at the end of 2019,'' he said.
"International border closures at the start of 2020 locked millions of international guests out of the region, and the first lockdown impacted businesses for months.''
Most Blue Mountains tourism businesses experienced a bumper Easter 2020 and sales continued for many until the latest lockdown.
Not only did it slash revenue overnight, "the timing couldn't have been worse'' for businesses looking forward to a fantastic Yulefest season in mid-Winter sandwiched between the July and September school holidays.
Some like Scenic World, tour guides and transport providers such as Mr Cronshaw's now indefinitely parked Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, have been hardest hit, only permitted to operate at reduced capacity but unable to attract the volume of domestic visitors needed for profitable business.
While the end of lockdown was welcomed by tourism, businesses had many concerns, Mr Cronshaw said.
"It's not like the end of last lockdown. We have many unknowns with Covid vaccination requirements and ongoing restrictions for some parts of the population.
"Business owners are worried about how they will juggle those elements.''
He urged tourism business owners to focus on positive customer service no matter the circumstance.
"Everyone is a bit anxious and out of sorts at the moment - you, your staff and your customers.
"However, the basic principles of tourism never change: be courteous and professional, give your guests a great experience and they will come back for more.''
Business owners should keep up to date with evolving state and federal government and NSW Health notifications, know what is required of them and consider how their business could be impacted.
"You must then train and support your staff, some of whom may be very young, inexperienced and/or not confident in their customer service delivery.''
He also urged business owners to promote prebooking to ensure sufficient stock, help guests plan their visit and manage their expectations before they arrived.
Equeva Group director Aviad Panta said he used lockdown to prepare his staff and properties (The Metropole, Blue Mountains Heritage Motel, Echo Point Discover Motel, Katoomba Town Centre Motel and Blue Lyrebird Co-Living Blue Mountains) for the return of visitors with spring cleaning, maintenance and training.
With more than 180 rooms, the largest 3.5-star accommodation provider in the region hosted 120,000 visitors pre-Covid.
While "we are still learning to navigate this new way of life and business like everyone else'' Mr Panta encouraged other businesses to make the most of the downtime and look forward to the inevitable surge of visitors.
Blue Mountains Adventure Company manager Andy Mein said the Katoomba-based business planned to reopen on October 30.
It would operate within government guidelines and had spent lockdown working on the company website and CovidSafe procedures such as replacing the hardcopy waiver with an electronic version which include Covid-specific questions.
Mr Cronshaw also encouraged residents to welcome visitors to the Blue Mountains.
As the second largest employer and economic driver of the region, tourism employed approximately 3000 people.
"What a blessing it has been to be locked down in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area for three months surrounded by wilderness and fresh air, with 140km of bushwalking tracks and most of us living in freestanding homes with large yards and routinely meet native animals.
"It is an honour to now share it with others not as fortunate as we are to live, work and play here.''
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