The idyllic seaside town of Bridport faced both "catastrophe" and unexpected success throughout the most disastrous year for Tasmanian tourism in history.
Bridport has been a popular holiday destination for Tasmanians and mainlanders alike for some time, particularly as the summer sun beats down and the beach earns its keep - but 2020 was a year like no other.
Bridport is part of the Dorset Council municipality which fuels its economy with the two major industries of agriculture and forestry, though Bridport is different.
The seaside town has built a reputation of being home to one of the better beaches in Tasmania, straddled by what has been voted as one of the top 100 golf courses in the world, with world class wineries but a stone's throw from the town's main street.
While Dorset in general earns its keep through working the land, Bridport relies on visitors - a reliance that is never more heavy than over the Christmas and New Year period.
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Throughout 2020, as Tasmanians ventured to the far reaches of their own state, many business owners and operators in Bridport saw a relative tourism boom fuelled by a closed border and government incentives to "holiday at home".
A short drive through the town tells the story - families await a fresh batch of fish and hot chips at the takeaway shop and bike riders roll along the picturesque foreshore while a couple loads a car with the golf gear about to embark on another round of 18 at Barnbougle.
Bridport business owners all agree on one thing, Christmas and New Years is the busiest time of the year, and it is when their business booms enough to offset the traditional winter down turn every seaside town faces.
Gina and Tony Scott have owned and operated the Platypus Park Country Retreat, which is less than five minutes up the road from Bridport's main street, for 27 years.
More Bridport residents are employed in the accommodation industry - at places like the Scott's Bed and Breakfast - than any other in the region.
In fact, six per cent of the local population earns their living in the industry as opposed to the less than two per cent average across the state.
Mrs Scott said the holiday period was just a bandaid stuck on the festering COVID cracks that had opened during the worst period for Tasmanian tourism she had ever experienced.
"In 27 years we've had a lot of catastrophes, and I've been through all of them. There was Ansett, and airline pilot strikes, and Devil Cat's gave up, and there've been a few others," she said.
This catastrophe is the worst because someone was telling us you will actually shut down, you will not have any customers, you will not have any income ... 'Tourism - you shut on this day'.Gina Scott, Platypus Park owner
"I was like, 'hang on, where does my income come from?' Getting your head around getting told, 'close your business', is the most difficult one."
Mrs Scott said, unlike on other occasions, the pandemic for a period of time there were absolutely no avenues to revenue for a period of time.
While Tasmanians had supported Platypus Park and the park had diversified to make it through the most bleak days of Winter and 14 cancellations due to the New South Wales outbreak, to the holiday hump, Mrs Scott said more difficulties were ahead.
"What we're experiencing, if I look forward, is we've got a 60 per cent down turn in forward bookings," she said.
Mrs Scott said this was due in large part to interstate travel uncertainty that has come with COVID-19, coupled with the fact her retreat hosted a number of interstate travellers due to the close proximity of the accommodation to Barnbougle golf course.
She had also had several interstate travellers cancel their trips altogether after learning of the unavailability of hire cars across Tasmania.
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The Bridport Bay Inn sits in a prominent position on Main Street with sweeping views of the foreshore, but licensee Sarah Powell said despite the establishments impressive offering 2020 had been tough and she expecting that to continue.
She said the virus, coupled with difficulties finding staff meant the year had been an uphill battle.
Ms Powell said the pub had battled through to capitalise on the holiday boom but moving forward was a concern.
It's busy at the moment but I don't know how long it's going to go for.Sarah Powell, Bridport Bay Inn licensee
She said a downturn in visitors to Bridport after the holiday hump would be another challenge to face after a difficult 2020.
Less than 300 metres down the road the Bridport Bunker Club and the Bridport Hotel are booming.
Bridport Bunker Club owners Dion and Diane Turner said they closed for 10 weeks as the pandemic ramped up, but since then it had been smooth sailing.
"We had a better than normal Winter ... Our year on year is about the same as last year, and last year was an exceptional year," Mr Turner said.
"We're ahead of last year and things have bounced back. December's been busier than last year ...
It's looking really good.Dion Turner, Bridport Bunker Club owner
"Because we live on the seaside coast, people were coming to Bridport for holidays that would normally go away, so our business became really busy in the Winter because of that," Mrs Turner said.
"Bridport has become a little hot spot so people are thinking, 'where are we going to go for the weekend?' Bridport is it."
Bridport Hotel licensee Darren Martello agreed. He said Tasmanian support had gotten his pub and hotel through the year despite a downturn in events being held in the town.
The Bridport Cafe was in the same boat. Owner Paul Arnison bought the establishment with his wife in May 2018 after moving from Queensland and said 2020 had been the best year they'd had.
"Really COVID didn't affect us that much," he said.
"April was pretty bad but we still did takeaway, and with the government support that kept us going.
It was the best Winter we've had since we've been here.Paul Arnison, Bridport Cafe owner
He put the boom down to the fact Tasmanians had been travelling around Tasmania.
"We're a destination ... everyone likes coming to Bridport," he said.
And Mr Arnison said after winter, things went from good to better. He said the cafe was operating at least as profitably this year as they were this time last year.
"Every month since June has been up on the previous year," he said.
Only time will tell whether 2021 will provide reprieve to the Bridport businesses looking to get back to the bustle of pre-COVID times or not, but in the mean time the message is clear.
Mainland support is welcomed but Mr Arnison said Tasmanians could keep the town afloat.
As long as Tasmanians keep travelling Tasmania and coming to Bridport, we'll be right. If that stops it'll be a problem.Paul Arnison, Bridport Cafe owner
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