TOURISM operators are blaming the Telstra exchange fire communications outage for lower-than-normal bookings in January, with predictions of long-term economic consequences.
Across Warrnambool there was an abnormally high number of vacancies after January 9, according to the city’s tourism services manager Peter Abbott.
Warrnambool Holiday Park owner Lisa Moore, who was without full landline and internet services from November 22 to December 9, said January bookings were down 30 per cent.
“The outage has had a huge impact on our business,” she said.
“For four days straight there was no way of communicating except from a website database.
“Normally we’d be booked solid through January, but from January 10 there are lots of campsite vacancies.
“It’s been very challenging.
“We’ve had to pay outside internet agencies to get bookings in.
“If people were ringing Warrnambool to find accommodation and couldn’t get through they go elsewhere.
“I’ve been told Apollo Bay is flat-out busy, so maybe some decided to stay there rather than Warrnambool.
“If tourists don’t come to town to stay then their money is not being spent here. The ripple effect is enormous.”
Mr Abbott said bookings had picked up recently and there were a lot of last-minute requests for large family groups during the New Year weekend.
One Portland operator attributed the quieter January bookings to a change in visitor preferences, not just the Telstra outage.
She said there was a general trend for people to take short-term breaks rather than long holidays.
There were strong bookings for Christmas-New Year and the Australia Day weekend, she said.