The Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association has a membership base of over 700 businesses across the Margaret River region and is also the region’s largest tourism operator, managing ground handling at Busselton Margaret River Airport and ten sites which encompass four caves, two lighthouses, one high ropes adventure course and three visitor centres.
We have created this coronavirus resource page based on our understanding of the developing situation and the issues currently being faced by you, our members. Although COVID-19 is not currently present in our region, we are advising businesses to undertake sensible precautions and planning exercises in order to prepare for the coming weeks and months. As business leaders, we encourage you to make decisions based on reliable, factual information sources and to take action which is in line with and in proportion to official advice.
UPDATE 29 March 2020:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced new restrictions for gatherings in public places. The previous limit of 10 has been cut down to two. States will now decide whether to enforce the two-person limit. People must stay at home except for:
· Shopping for essentials
· Medical purposes
· Work and education if you cannot work or learn remotely
UPDATE 28 MARCH 2020:
Australia: Regional carriers thrown a lifeline by Federal Government. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, announced a $198 million Regional Air Network Assistance Package, assisting carriers to continue operation through the COVID-19 crisis. He said the $198 million in funding would underwrite airlines’ operating costs on selected regional routes, building on an earlier $715 million in support already announced for the struggling aviation sector.
UPDATE 27 MARCH 2020:
WA: The Premier announced new restrictions on travel across the state which prevents the movement of people between different regions. Travel between Western Australia’s regions will be restricted at midnight next Tuesday to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Regional boundaries mirror those of the state’s Regional Development Commissions. Mr McGowan said the Peel and Perth regions would be combined into one region, due to their close proximity. He said police would have the power to enforce restrictions of movement and those breaking the new rules could face fines of up to $50,000. Read the Premier’s statement.
Australia: The Prime Minister announced further measures for self-isolation. All arrivals to Australia will now be quarantined in hotels in the city they arrive in. Read the PM’s media statement.
UPDATE 26 March 2020:
Shire of Augusta Margaret River: Funding package and rate freeze – Two million dollars in recovery support, a zero percent rate increase in 2020/21 as a minimum and free outside school hours care for critical health and support workers during the pandemic are among the initiatives announced in the Shire of Augusta Margaret River’s COVID-19 Community Care Package. Read more
Australia: National Cabinet agreed to an Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) recommendation to expand the current coronavirus testing criteria. Read more
The instruction regarding hairdressers – 30 minutes per patron has been lifted (effective immediately), but the 4sqm rule per person must be strictly observed within the premises and that personal contact during the patron’s visit should be minimised wherever possible.
OTHER RECENT UPDATES:
State Government issues new liquor restrictions
West Australians told to cancel their holiday plans and stay home.
International travel is now banned for Australians under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
Licensed clubs, pubs, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs and places of worship ordered to close. Restaurants and cafes restricted to takeaway service only. Accommodation hotels may continue to operate for the purposes of selling food or beverages for persons to consume off the premises.
Authorities in Western Australia declare a “major emergency” and state borders closed. Interstate arrivals will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, and the border controls will apply to all road, air, rail and sea access points.
The Commonwealth Government has released the 2nd stage of its economic plan. $189 billion is being injected into the economy by all arms of Government in order to keep Australians in work and businesses in business.
New social distancing measures introduced. For gatherings of fewer than 100 people in an enclosed space, the Government is now recommending four square metres per person.
Australian borders closed to all non-citizens and non-residents.
Small business owners are encouraged to make use of the State Government’s new assistance centre as a one-stop resource for advice and guidance on managing the impacts of COVID-19. The Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) will provide dedicated, timely guidance on available support options. The SBDC’s 133 140 hotline and website will deal specifically with queries from business owners looking to navigate the wide range of recently announced measures to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19. Read more
The Australian Government made it mandatory for all inbound international travellers to self-isolate for 14 days, (applied from March 16). Self-isolation applies to everyone who steps off any international flight. As part of the measure, cruise ships from international ports have also been banned.
Tourism WA had paused all international marketing activity effective immediately and are reviewing interstate activity.
The Australian Government banned cruise ships from foreign ports from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days, effective from Sunday, March 15, 2020.
The best way to ensure you are making the best decisions for your business is to consult up-to-date, fact-based information sources. Please find below a list of information sources which we feel are most relevant for MRBTA members.
World Health Organization (WHO)
Useful for: Interactive global map of virus cases; Daily press briefings; Safety advice and training videos
While the Margaret River region is currently free from COVID-19, there are a number of precautionary measures and planning exercises which we encourage your business to consider. Please find a summary of these below.
You are invited to view MRBTA’s own updates to its Policy & Procedures. Please note that it may not be appropriate or relevant for your business to implement the same procedures, and adopting these procedures does not guarantee that your business will be unaffected by COVID-19.
Australian Workplace Laws The Fair Work Ombudsman has released these guidelines on workplace entitlements and obligations if your business is affected by the outbreak of coronavirus.
The ATO has a useful COVID-19 information page where you can find out more about getting small business support. Learn more.
Businesses across the region are experiencing the impact of cancelled forward-bookings, cruise ships and events. For this reason, it is advisable to revisit any budget plans and forecasts which you may currently have in place, as well as checking that you are comfortable with your current cancellation/refund policies (N.B. cancellation policies cannot be changed for existing bookings).For reference:
If there are changes to your business operations, it will be important for the reputation of your business to maintain strong communications with your customers and stakeholders. MRBTA member Janine Pittaway has shared some tips and thought starters to help businesses through the process of communicating issues and crisis responses.
Online meetings and conferencing – learn about Webcasting – an alternative to face-to-face meetings. Read more.
The Federal Government’s business hotline is providing additional support to small and medium businesses impacted by COVID-19. Operations at the business.gov.au 13 28 46 Contact Centre will increase to 7 days per week, and provide additional hours of support outside standard operating hours for the first month, answering calls from 7am to 11pm AEST. Also visit treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/businesses.
If you are a new applicant to Centrelink to access federal government assistance, you need to start the process on myGov. The website www.servicesaustralia.gov.au has information about how to set up an account or link an existing account to Centrelink.
The Small Business Development Commission is available to provide advice on State Government financial assistance – call the Hotline on 133140 or visit their website.
Contact free financial counsellors at the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007
Shire of Augusta Margaret River has released a COVID-19 Community Care Package. Read more here.
Preparing for Recovery
The region’s economy is heavily reliant on hospitality and tourism and while it is likely that we are still to experience the full impact of COVID-19, it is nevertheless crucial that we also plan for the future once the pandemic subsides, to ensure that the local industry has the best chance of recovery. Driving domestic visitation will play a key role in this recovery and the tourism industry peak bodies are committing substantial levels of investment in marketing campaigns encouraging Australians to holiday domestically.
MRBTA members may wish to be aware of the following initiatives:
That depends. As of midday Monday 23 March 2020, any attendance on-premise at hotels, pubs, taverns, bars, restaurants, cafes and any other hospitality venues is not prohibited.
The only exemptions will be for accommodation hotels and limited to them providing food and beverage for in-house guests only.
For those licensed premises with a license that allows for takeaway alcohol, restricted arrangements come into effect on Monday 23 March. This includes cellar doors. No tastings can occur, but businesses may sell take away alcohol as long as they abide by the social distancing rules.
Take away and home delivery of food is still allowed. Indoor sporting venues (including gyms) and places of worship will close. Hairdressers and beauticians can remain open at their discretion. Shopping Centres have not been closed.
Is the region currently experiencing a decline in visitation?
Anecdotal evidence from members suggest emerging trends in cancellations of forward bookings, particularly from international visitors, and this is set to continue with the announcement of the imposed a universal precautionary self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals into Australia.
MRBTA is also able to share the following visitation trends by country of origin for its attractions (caves, lighthouses, high ropes adventure course). These statistics are for the last 30 days at 10th March, 2020 vs 2019:
How should my business respond to customer cancellations?
The best outcome for both the business and the customer is normally to offer to move the booking or issue a voucher.
As long as cancellation policies are within the guidelines of the ACCC, leniency is at the member’s discretion. Your business cash flow situation will also be an important factor in whether or not you are able to offer a refund.
You may also wish to take into account the following factors when making decisions:
OTAs such as Expedia have increased the flexibility of their cancellation policies
Potential impact on your business reputation
Potential impact on customer relationships
In terms of MRBTA’s own cancellation policy at its attractions, this currently stands as follows:
A full refund will be provided for cancellations received by close of business (5.00pm WST) on the day prior to the tour booking.
In the event of ‘no shows’, or cancellations later than close of business (5.00pm WST) on the day prior to the booking, we may charge the full cost of the booked tour(s).
However, it is important to note that MRBTA is able to offer this level of flexibility because these tours are not on-demand, i.e. staff are not rostered on in direct relation to a specific booking.
Are regional events still going ahead?
The following regional events have been postponed, rescheduled or cancelled:
Open Studios April 25 – May 10 RESCHEDULED TO SEPTEMBER OR OCTOBER 2020
Will the new Melbourne-Busselton Jetstar route continue to operate?
Jetstar announced on 19 March that they would delay the inaugural flights from Melbourne to Busselton which were due to commence March 25. It is not sustainable for Jetstar to launch a new flight route at this time.
Jetstar will review the scheduled start date in May 2020 and we will keep you up to date with any more information that we receive.
We are saddened to be sharing this news, given the work that has gone into preparing for the flights from all members within the region as well as the team at MRBTA. The health and well-being of the community however, remains the priority at this time.
We have every reason to believe that the route will commence at the earliest possible opportunity, and that the route will have a better chance of success if it is launched at a time when visitors themselves are more comfortable about travelling interstate.
Have cruise ships to the region been cancelled?
The Australian Government has banned cruise ships from foreign ports (including round trip international cruises originating in Australia) from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days, effective from 11:59pm, Sunday, March 15, 2020. Arrangements will be made for certain cruise ships already in transit to help Australian citizens and permanent residents to get off those ships.
A number of cruise ship arrivals to Busselton have been cancelled, with some of these due to the impact of coronavirus. For further information, please see our cruise ship arrival calendar.
Why are the regional brand workshops still going ahead?
MRBTA will continue to carry out the regional brand workshops from 16-20 March 2020 as these gatherings fall within the current health advice. There are 6 workshops scheduled to take place in Busselton, Dunsborough, Margaret River and Augusta, with the number of participants registered at these sessions ranging from 9 to 40 people. The workshops will be led by Frank Bethel from Forward Scout, who is scheduled to fly in from Sydney in order to carry out the work. The workshops are an essential part of the project underway to evolve the region’s destination brand, with the sub-regional branding approach being particularly relevant for the attraction and dispersal of intrastate visitors.