When Tasmania's borders closed and internal restrictions prohibited travel within the state Mannahill Farm shut its doors for four months.
The short-stay accommodation near Sheffeild in the North-West usually plays host to scores of international and interstate travellers looking to explore Tasmania's Cradle Mountain.
But like many other tourism businesses around the state the COVID-19 pandemic brought their trade to a halt. Owners Eileen and Simon Worssam said the closure devastated their savings.
They said without government assistance the business probably wouldn't have survived.
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"We had four months with no one at all," Eileen said.
"Therefore no income and with Tassie government support and the federal government support I don't know where we would be to be honest," Simon added.
The Worssam's aren't alone. Empire Hotel, at Deloraine, owner-operator Mark Flanigan said interstate travellers usually made up about 35 per cent of their business. He said it had been slow without them.
Accommodation businesses were given a slight reprieve when internal coronavirus restrictions were eased to allow Tasmanians to move around their own state.
The Worssam's said Tasmanians had embraced the idea of exploring more of the state and in some cases, had turned out to be more valuable guests than interstate travellers.
"Having Tasmanian guests in this interim period has been great," Simon said.
"It has been really encouraging to see how Tasmanians have stepped up and supported local businesses," Eileen added.
"The value of a Tasmanian guest in many respects is higher because they're more likely to return and whoever they tell is more like to visit too," Simon finished.
Vertigo Mountain Biking - a business which rents out mountain bikes at Derby - owner Buck Gibson said they had seen an influx of Tasmanian guests since internal restrictions lifted.
"Usually 80 per cent of our business is from interstate or overseas. So our challenge was to grow our Tasmanian business and Tasmanians have responded really strongly," he said.
"I think what happened with the COVID lockdown was people, after that initial lockdown, were seeking various forms of activity and exercise. So I think that their was a lot of people sitting on the fence going 'I should take up mountain biking' - COVID lockdown made them take up mountain biking.
"We've seen a real boost in numbers from Tasmania wanting to have a go."
Another business which has benefited from more Tasmanians getting out and about in their own state is the floating sauna at Derby.
Owner Nigel Reeves had been preparing to open the sauna when the internal lockdown hit. He said Tasmanians had really seemed to embrace the attraction since internal restrictions were lifted.
"When the premier announced that sauna's could open on July 4 we were really pleased. We began trading that weekend and I have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of local people who have booked and had a sauna experience with us," he said.
But not all tourism businesses experienced the same uptake in visitors. Cradle Coast Tours owner Howard Smith said Tasmanians weren't a reliable market for tour operators. He said that business had been terrible since the start of the pandemic and hadn't picked up since restrictions eased.
"We haven't really had interstate or overseas tourists and that is my market. Relying on locals to do tours is not a large part of our market," he said.
"Even if they are coming up here, to the North-West Coast, to explore their own state they bring their own Commodore or whatever car they have."
Tarkine Quad and Side by Side Adventures co-owner Karen Dick said they lost at least $100,000 worth of business when the borders closed.
She said two, $20,000 four-seater buggies, purchased just before the lockdown, had been left idle since January because of the pandemic.
Looking to the future
With borders re-opening on Monday, October 26, many tourism businesses will be hoping to bounce back from the recent downturn.
From Monday travellers from Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and New Zealand will be allowed to enter Tasmania without having to quarantine.
Public Health director Mark Veitch said it was pleasing to be able to safely open the border to low-risk places.
Areas are determined low-risk if they have gone for a certain period of time having recorded little or no cases of coronavirus and no community transmission.
He said New Zealand hadn't had community transmission in more than a month and people could be reassured that it was safe for Tasmania to open it's borders.
Mrs Dick, owner of Tarkine Quad Adventures, said she was excited, but nervous to welcome visitors back.
"We want to get our clientele back, of mainlanders, but we don't know whats going to happen yet. If they open the borders and they bring the virus back into Tasmania then they are going to have to close down again," she said.
That is a sentiment shared by much of the tourism industry. Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive officer Luke Martin said businesses had a responsibility to welcome back guests in a safe manner.
He said the lockdown had been particularly hard on tourism businesses and the re-opening couldn't come fast enough.
"Borders re-opening will start to reinstate confidence in the industry and the visitor market, as we know people have been reluctant to make travel arrangements until they know borders are open," Mr Martin said.
"We need to go hard now with reinstating our air capacity and incentives to ensure we have as good a summer as we can. We obviously also need to step up as an industry and ensure we are welcoming our visitors back safely.
"There is a new way of delivering tourism in Tasmania, and we need every operator to do their part."
All of the businesses that The Examiner spoke to about borders re-opening had spent weeks, if not months, perfecting their COVID safe plans.
Some, such as Vertigo Mountain Biking, had installed plastic screens and changed their business practices, while others had limited the capacity of their venues in order to complain with density regulations. Some are already receiving bookings.
"I have had interest from everywhere except for Victoria. They have all been fascinated to inquire about pricing and availability. I have got booking right through summer from excited mainlanders who have been in isolation like many of us and are looking forward to reconnecting to nature," Mr Reeves said.
"We will be really pleased to welcome people from the mainland and New Zealand as well. We have got a really cool experience - it is the only floating sauna in Australia and New Zealand - so we're absolutely thrilled to be able to share it."
Vertigo Mountain Biking has also received interest from interstate tourists looking to come to Tasmania as soon as possible.
"We've already got some customers contacting us saying they've made their bookings and they're heading in the first week or two after the borders open," Gibson said.
He said the shop had completely updated how it does business to prepare for the re-opening.
"The last thing we want to do is go back into lockdown," he said.
"Just little things like setting someone up on a high bike we are in relatively close contact so our staff will be in face masks for that process. We have had to put a lot of barriers and signage in place so that we do limit the amount of people in the shop at the one time.
"More importantly a lot of our procedures, that were sometimes quite manual, we're asking people to book in online ... we just want to minimise the possibility of congregations of riders."
For the Worssam's the return of interstate guests will mean a slight return to normalcy. They are hopeful that the return will see more bums in beds throughout the summer period.
"Since the Premier firmed up that we would see interstate guests by the end of the month then we started getting bookings," Simon said.
"Normally this time of year we would actually be full now [until] probably January."
For some tourism operators though the road out of the pandemic still remains unclear. The return of some travellers will help, but it won't be until borders open with Victoria and NSW that they see the majority of their guests return.
"Victoria is probably at least 50 per cent of my market and NSW would be about the next 20 to 30 per cent. Of course the overseas market most people are saying is a couple of years away now [with] cruise ships and so on," Smith said.
"They usually start around now about middle October and go through until Easter time the following year [so] that is a pretty big hit because we had 30 ships come into Burnie last summer.
"Or we were going to have 30 but the last five or six didn't make it in due to obvious reasons."
Until then they remain hopeful that a slight increase coupled with intrastate travellers will be enough to keep them afloat.
"Each day is going to be a new horizon for us I guess. I have had two or three tours since March that's all. So I've been having to work in other areas, a completely different area than tourism," Smith said.
"It is just going to be nice to see some tourists from interstate wandering around our towns and our country areas, in a weeks time, it is going to be great.
"It is like a bit of a weight lifted off your shoulders really when you can travel more freely."
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