Launceston tourism operators and accommodation providers expect travel vouchers will offer a much-needed incentive for Tasmanians to visit the city, but interstate tourism will be critical for their viability.
Tamar River Cruises reopened last Monday for the first time since March, receiving visitors from the North-West Coast and rural parts of the state.
About 60 per cent of its usual trade is from interstate visitors with the vast majority Victorians, so even in a one-week period, the downturn has been noticeable.
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Skipper Lynn Faulkner said the travel voucher system for Tasmanians could help to keep them afloat before the borders reopen to other states.
"Certainly the loads haven't been heavy - very low," he said.
"We fit into the experience side of things, so we're expecting people will want something to do, something to see, hopefully they'll give us a call here at Tamar River Cruises and take advantage of our magnificent Tamar Valley and Cataract Gorge."
Mr Faulkner was keeping a close eye on the situation in Victoria, because even if the borders reopen to just safe states such as Western Australia and South Australia, it would be difficult to replace the loss in trade.
"I come from a health background, so I can see both sides of the argument. I applaud what Mr Gutwein has done, he prevented loss of life. I can also appreciate the impact on businesses," he said.
Tourism operators finding ways to bring in local customers
McDermott Coaches managing director Simon McDermott said the business lost $800,000 in forward booking cancellations at the start of COVID, which he estimated would be over $1 million loss in trade with border restrictions ongoing.
The company, which provides a range of group travel experiences to Tasmania's key tourism destinations, has geared itself towards the local market.
The Travel Club provides older Tasmanians with monthly day trips, while the McDermott's Experience offers whisky tasting tours, tours to Ratho Farm golf course, Cradle Mountain packages and more.
Mr McDermott said being able to offer a diverse range of packages had helped the business adapt during COVID.
"Cradle Mountain is quite busy at the moment with local tourists, but mainland tourist visitation is quite big for us, so that has impacted a little bit," he said.
"Our local people on our Travel Club and those sort of things have really helped us, so that's been fantastic.
"But our tourist operation, as far as big tour coaches, has been heavily impacted so [the tourism vouchers] will subsidise that."
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Mr McDermott said he understood the need for border restrictions, particularly in order to keep older Tasmanians safe.
Adina Place Motel Apartments has also been adapting, providing week-to-week stays, accommodation for tradies and special deals to keep the business ticking over.
Motel manager Kellie Neu said remodelling their offerings was essential during COVID.
"We normally have a lot of forward bookings, but now people are booking last minute, but when the borders were [closed] and COVID first hit, we just had cancellation after cancellation and hardly [anyone] staying so we had to remodel our accommodation to accommodate with what was happening at the time," she said.
"It's certainly been very challenging."
They described the voucher system as a "wonderful incentive" and the business expected more people to visit the city from the East Coast, North-West Coast and Hobart.
Small Business Minister Sarah Courtney said the upcoming school holidays would be an ideal time for families to utilise the vouchers.
"The purpose of this scheme is to get people out and about over the next three months, and so we've got a team on hand working hard to expedite getting the vouchers out to people, as well as ensuring that once you've experienced your accommodation or event that you're able to get your refund quickly," she said.