COVID-related border closures are making life increasingly difficult for small business owners in the Tweed Shire, especially those in the tourism and retail sectors.
The latest Queensland-New South Wales border closure came into effect on August 8, and has left some small businesses feeling increasingly concerned about the effect of the closure on their tourist-dependant businesses.
The Tweed Harbour Motor Inn on Wharf Street is nestled in a prime location, just five minutes south of the Queensland border and within walking distance to the Tweed Shire’s pristine beaches, creeks and rivers.
But being so close to the border has created a number of issues for the business since the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year.
The motel’s owners, Carole and Andrew Goodway, said most of the Tweed Harbour Motor Inn’s guests visited from Queensland, and said the first border closure in March resulted in a significant decrease in occupancy.
Within a couple of days of the first border closure the motel went from 85 per cent occupancy to only filling one of their rooms per night, which Ms Goodway said created a serious financial loss for the business.
The Goodways are concerned the second border closure will have an even worse effect on their business.
Ms Goodway said although the federal government incentives, including Job Keeper payments and the Small Business Grant, had been a great help, the second border closure was likely to bring about an even bigger loss than they had previously seen.
“The border is now closed [again] and we’ve already had at least 10 bookings from August cancelled,” she said.
“It’s a very unknown situation and we fear that we will go down to having zero guests.”
Ms Goodway said the Tweed Harbour Motor Inn had been slowly seeing its occupancy return to normal after the first border restrictions ended, and had been finally seeing a positive plateau in guest numbers, but said she feared a full closure of the motel until the border re-opened could not be ruled out.
“Queenslanders visiting will have to pay for hotel quarantine if they cross into New South Wales, so what hope have we really got?” Ms Goodway said.
“All we can really do is hope we have visitors from elsewhere in our state, that would be life-saving,” she said.
Kingscliff based boutique, Sorella, is another small business that had only recently started recovering from the financial losses caused by the first Queensland-New South Wales border closure.
Sorella owner Camilla Chandler said sales at the store had dropped by more than 50 per cent during the first closure compared with sales during the same period in 2019.
Ms Chandler said the news of the new border closure had been “a kick in the guts”.
She said even though the local support for the boutique has been stabilising, the tourists who drove down from Brisbane and beyond were really the ones who made the biggest difference to the store’s sales.
“The support from the local community really has been amazing, I can’t deny that,” Ms Chandler said.
“But people who take the trip from Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast or really anywhere in Queensland are the ones looking to shop,” she said.
“We’ve lost the visitors from Melbourne, and nobody is really visiting from Sydney, and now we’ve lost Queensland again.”
“It hurts, that’s for sure,” Ms Chandler said.
Ms Chandler, who also ran a travel agency, Camilla Chandler Travel Manager, said she had not received any new bookings since May.
“Sorella was hit hard, but my travel business is a whole other story,” she said.
“I have been cancelling all of my clients’ trips, which is essentially a free service, and there has been no new bookings for months.
“So I’ve had to make the tough decision to terminate my travel business, it just isn’t sustainable in the current climate,” Ms Chandler said.
Kingscliff resident Shaun Snell said it was tough to see businesses such as The Tweed Harbour Motor Inn and Sorella struggling to stay afloat.
“I’ve seen close friends really hurting because of this, and it’s not anger at the Queensland Government or anything like that, it’s just the different elements of issues that come from a struggling business: money issues, home issues, mental health issues,” Mr Snell said.
“It’s just a difficult time,” he said.