Great Southern tourism operators hurt by travel restrictions breathe sigh of relief after bumper holidays

Eleanor BeidatschAlbany Advertiser
Busy Blue Bus Tours Albany director Susan McCabe.
Camera IconBusy Blue Bus Tours Albany director Susan McCabe. Credit: Laurie Benson

Tourism providers breathed a sigh of relief as summer travellers flocked to the Great Southern during the school holidays.

The tourism industry was hit hard last year by the COVID-19 lockdown and travel restrictions.

According to the WA Tourism Council, more than 20,000 tourism jobs were at risk as a result of the ongoing restrictions.

Albany-based tourism operator Susan McCabe said her business, Busy Blue Bus Tours Albany, had no trade for several months during lockdown last year.

“I had nothing. No work, no business. But I had to keep it going and I had to be ready for when business came back,” Ms McCabe said.

Tourism is an important industry in the Great Southern, increasing economic diversity in an otherwise agricultural area.

To help with the region’s economic recovery, the State Government dedicated more than $12 million of the Great Southern Recovery Plan to tourism. The situation improved when WA’s borders opened up for interstate travel.

“It wasn’t until mid-November when my customers were starting to book in advance and giving me a strong sense of security that business was picking up and moving on,” Ms McCabe said.

Since restrictions eased, Ms McCabe said she had had more trade than the previous year.

“Once the customers returned ... my figures have been better than 2019,” she said.

This trend is consistent across the Great Southern, with more tourists visiting the region than in a normal year.

Shire of Plantagenet economic development officer Laura Adams said tourism was booming and the accommodation sector was thriving this summer.

“The outlook for the next few months after the school holidays is also looking good because we have got some large regional events,” she said.

“Anecdotally and statistically, we’ve found that tourism in the region is booming.”

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