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SOUTH-west tourism operators reported contrasting school holiday experiences as coronavirus restrictions eased. The Grampians flourished as one accommodation site operated at full capacity for 11 days while those along the Great Ocean Road found it tough. Josephina McDonald operates Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park with her husband Rohan and after Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement to open regional Victoria up for travel, the couple sifted through more than 1000 email requests, 250 online bookings and worked 15-hour days. “We instantly booked out our glamping and cabins,” Mrs McDonald said. “From the Thursday of the first week to the Sunday of the second week we were fully booked.” Despite the overwhelming response to the state government’s announcement and the tough working conditions, Mrs McDonald is hopeful summer will paint a similar picture as coronavirus restrictions ease. “We closed for the second lockdown as we are a tourist destination and I didn’t think it was fair to take bookings from other operators who usually have workers stay,” she said. “We had a really high occupancy rate before we closed and I’m extremely positive for the future. “I’m excited that regional Victorians have been out exploring their own backyards. “We don’t have many forward bookings as people’s need to escape is now but I think they’ll start thinking about summer now they’re back in their routine.” Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism general manager Liz Price said the coast saw a vastly different tourism scenario. “Unfortunately the school holidays did not deliver the much-needed boost in trade many businesses were looking for,” she said. “Much of the accommodation remained significantly below the same time last year and the current restrictions left key attractions closed or operating at reduced capacity. “Good weather days brought visitors to the region but many of these were day-trip visitors making the most of the natural attractions. “Many operators continue to face an uncertain future with summer bookings considerably down.” The outdoor sanctuary at the Deep Blue Hot Springs reopened on the first Tuesday of the school holiday but owner Gene Seabrook said numbers through the doors were not competitive to the winter holiday period. “We had some demand this time but as Melbourne wasn’t in lockdown in June-July our numbers weren’t as strong as then,” he said. “On weekends we had tourists from regional areas but through the week we were supported by locals. We’ve seen a bit of a drop off this week with school going back.” Moving forward, Mr Seabrook would like to see more awareness about Warrnambool to entice people to holiday post-pandemic and help boost businesses. “I think Warrnambool is somewhat of a secret along the Great Ocean Road and needs to be unlocked, there’s so much on this side,” he said. “We’ve had to restricted the hours we’re open and for our workers as the demand is just not there but they’re all on either JobKeeper or JobSeeker. It’s disappointing and not good for the Warrnambool economy. “It will be a tough road ahead until Christmas and hopefully by then we’ll be back to some normality.” READ MORE: The school holiday period was a similar picture for Blue Whale Motor Inn owner Graeme Soulsy whose main clientele was workers. “We had a reasonable week the first week with people from Bendigo and Mildura but the second week was quieter,” he said. “The holidays gave us a little bit of a boost but didn’t set world on fire. The majority of people we had were workers and about 30 per cent were holiday-makers. “We have the odd bookings for Christmas but we’re usually about 75 per cent booked by now. We have a very long way to go.” Listen to the latest episode of our weekly episode The Booletin and Beyond: Have you signed up to The Standard’s daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that’s happening in the south-west.

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