Accommodation turnaround hopes after tough year

The eight-bedroom Eden Park Views guesthouse has been empty for most of this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

By Colin MacGillivray

ACCOMMODATION providers across the north of the City of Whittlesea are hoping for a change of fortune as Victoria moves towards a COVID-normal summer.

Accommodation services have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many forced to close their doors for large parts of the year.

Many accommodation businesses began to reopen as restrictions eased in early November seeing the border between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria come down, but restrictions on group bookings were only relaxed on November 22.

The Eden Park Views guesthouse is an eight-bedroom guesthouse with room for up to 16 guests, but has been quiet for most of 2020.

Owner Margaret Shanahan said coronavirus restrictions had taken a toll on her business this year.

“It was incredibly busy in the early part of this year and I had bookings on a regular basis,” she said.

“I had some tradesmen come and stay in the period between lockdowns in June, and they were allowed to stay at that time. Since June I have had no bookings.

“I’m in Melbourne but the holiday rental property is in Eden Park, which is more than 25 kilometres from where I live, so I wasn’t even able to visit the property most of the time.

“I tried at one stage to contact the hospitals to see if there were any medical staff that wanted to come up and stay, because I thought with what was happening at Epping hospital that might be an ideal place for people to stay, but I didn’t hear from anybody.

“Basically, the house was in shutdown from July, August, September, October and November.”

Ms Shanahan said she had been forced to knock back several potential guests because of the government restrictions.

“I had a booking enquiry recently from somebody from Adelaide. I had to ring the Department of Health and Human Services to find out what the requirements are for somebody coming from interstate,” she said.

“I texted the people via Airbnb, but they didn’t respond back. I asked how many people, because what I was told by DHHS is that I can’t have people from any more than two households. I wanted to confirm they met that criteria, and there was no response.

“I had an enquiry from somebody who wanted to have their wedding celebration there, and there was no way that could happen either so I had to say no to all of them.”

Ms Shanahan said while the party of tradesmen who used the house in June brought welcome business, they had inadvertently cost her government support.

“I had JobKeeper for a short time, but because of changes in the rules, they’re looking at all the figures from last year and this year,” she said.

“Even though I haven’t had anybody stay for months and months, I had one company – the tradesmen – who paid for their stay after everybody left, which has affected me being able to get JobKeeper because they paid late rather than on time. It’s been very disappointing.”

Ms Shanahan said she had suffered ‘a significant impact financially’ as a result of the lost JobKeeper payments.

She said she needed plenty of business during the summer to begin to recoup some of her losses.

“It’ll be good once it opens up again. The property has got a good rating and people love being there. It’s an eight-bedroom property with skyline views of Melbourne, kangaroos and 12 acres of land,” she said.

“Normally it’s solidly booked during the summer months.

“I’ve got a booking already for Christmas, so that’s there tentatively, and if anything were to change and I had to cancel, they know that’s what will happen.

“I’ve got bookings next year for March with three weekends in a row booked.

“I think more and more people will want to get out and go and stay in semi-rural places or rural Victoria, so I have a lot of hope.”