Tourism operators put meltdown losses at tens of thousands

ACCOMMODATION providers are grappling with how to put a figure on lost bookings and damaged reputation from the Telstra exchange outage that left them without phone or internet coverage for weeks.

Early estimates  run into tens of thousands of dollars across the region in lost tourism revenue.

The November 22 Warrnambool exchange fire outage came in the lead-up to the peak summer  season and by  yesterday operators had noticed big gaps in forward bookings which normally would be full by now.

Shipwreck Coast Marketing chief executive Carole Reid said the region’s reputation had been damaged with potential clients being unable to contact destinations to make   or confirm bookings during the outage.

“Operators found many angry phone messages and emails from   people who said they tried to make contact, but no one answered,”  she said.

“The outside world didn’t know about our troubles and wrongly blamed the business operators.

“It’s created bad PR for the south-west region and the impact would certainly be in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

Port Campbell holiday apartments operator Darryl Salmon said his summer bookings were down 25 per cent on normal.

“There was no internet or EFTPOS for 10 days and landlines came back three days after that.

“How do you put a figure on stress and worry?

“Operators who took card payment on trust  are now   finding there are insufficient funds in some accounts.

“Tourists who couldn’t make contact would have avoided Port Campbell.” Warrnambool backpacker accommodation operator Geoff Morris had to wait more than two weeks for his landline and EFTPOS to come back on line. “We anticipate our losses at between $5000 and $10,000, but it’s difficult to put a price on lost bookings,”  he said.

“About 90 per cent of clients carry EFTPOS cards and we had to send them up the street to get cash — that was hard to explain to visitors who knew nothing of the Telstra outage.

“I’d suggest a lot of  people passed by to other destinations because they couldn’t make contact with Warrnambool.

“I just hope Telstra puts in a back-up system and follows through its promise to promote the region.”

Corangamite Shire Council economic development officer Terry Binder said there was a significant impact across the shire and details would be clearer after community forums with Telstra  this week.

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