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‘It gets harder with each lockdown’: Alpine businesses struggle to snap-back

Falls Creek. Photo: Indiana Hansen

The Victorian alpine tourism industry is struggling to bounce back from the state’s sixth lockdown following the easing of restrictions in regional areas on Tuesday.

The last three lockdowns have taken a significant economic and mental toll on local business owners after alpine resorts endured a short and restricted 2020 winter season.

Businesses in the region, which includes some of Australia’s premier ski resorts such as Mount Hotham, Mount Buller and Falls Creek, rely on the winter months to make the majority of their annual profit.

Jaye Fatchen, owner of Milch Café and Bar in Falls Creek, said bouncing back “gets harder with each lockdown”.

“It’s a really stressful roller coaster ride not only trying to balance stock, but balance staff and mental health and uncertainty,” she said.

“It is really, really difficult.”

According to the Alpine Resorts Coordinating Council’s 2020 End of Season Report, alpine resorts received just over 90,000 visitors during the 2020 winter season, which is about a 90% decrease compared to the previous year.

Ski lift at Falls Creek. Photo: Indiana Hansen

Restaurant owner and director Danielle Walters said returning to business following the end of a lockdown is “not as easy as opening the next day”.

“We still need to get stock up the mountain,” she said.

She said running a small business in Mount Buller this season has been “pretty painful”.

“We don’t have a full year, we literally only have four months to trade…now we’ve been dropped down to two months if we are lucky, so it’s a disaster,” Walters said.

A spokesperson for the Free Alpine Open Alpine Instagram campaign said it is “great news” the alpine community can reopen following Tuesday’s announcement, however it is concerned about the “inconsistent, up and down roller coaster” faced by local business owners.

The campaign, which uses Instagram to raise awareness about the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on the alpine region, was launched last week in response to the third lockdown this winter season.

“We created the [Instagram] account to really put some pressure on the government, to just let them know, because they are so far removed from the lived realities of these local businesses [in the alpine region], and we just wanted to remind them,” the spokesperson said.

“We really want to get [Premier Daniel Andrews’] attention to provide more economic support.”

In response to the latest lockdown, the State Government announced on Friday it is investing an additional $10.6 million for the extension of its Alpine Resorts Winter Support Program. Through the program, businesses most impacted by COVID-19 restrictions in the Victorian alpine region can receive further financial grants of between $5000 and $20,000.

In addition to multiple border closures, the alpine region remains isolated to regional Victorian holiday-goers for at least another week following Melbourne’s seven-day lockdown extension announced earlier this week.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ office did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.


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