‘People shouldn’t come’: Great Ocean Road towns look to stop visitors

Beach towns along Victoria's Great Ocean Road are trying to stop visitors heading there for the usually busy Easter holiday period, to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The surf club in Lorne has stopped beach patrols, while the region's biggest real estate rental agency is blocking all new bookings of holiday houses until the end of April.

The beach at Lorne on Thursday.Credit:Jason South

Tourist hubs along the world-famous holiday trail have already suffered a plunge in visitor numbers following the federal government's ban on overseas visitors to Australia.

Lifesaver Samuel Ord said regular rostered patrols at the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club had stopped and the club house had been shut down.

"We can't have flags up and say it's safe to swim here when the government is saying 'stay home'," he said. "Obviously when Easter is coming up it's usually a busy time and I can understand what they are doing."

Lorne life-saver Samuel Ord.Credit:Jason South

Club captain Sam Aschhoff said a limited patrol would take place with a core group of about four lifesaving club members down from the normal visible patrol made up of about 15 to 20 people.

"We are hoping that people are listening to what the government is saying. There should be no unnecessary travel, people shouldn't come to Lorne for a holiday, there will be no flags up and no patrol," he said. "The beaches are not shut, the word is we are just trying to do self-isolating and social distancing and there should not be any need to go to the beach."

The club followed directives from Surf Life Saving Victoria, which is moving to limited "operational patrols" across Victorian beaches from this weekend.

Clubs along the coast including Torquay, Jan Juc and Anglesea have abolished regular patrols and plan to take down flags, leaving limited "observational" patrols in place.

The move follows outrage over the huge numbers of people flocking to Bondi beach in Sydney last weekend, which prompted authorities to fence off the beach.

Great Ocean Road Real Estate has emailed all holiday-home owners on its books this week advising it would block any new bookings until the end of April, unless owners objected.

The business manages about 700 holiday homes along the surf coast, including in Lorne, Torquay and Apollo Bay.

"We are now in a position whereby government advice is for people to 'stay home'," the email said. "With this in mind, we are moving to place a full bock on calendars across all platforms from now through to April 30."

Existing bookings would be honoured, but many of these had already been cancelled.

"Our business is experiencing a wave of guests seeking to cancel their bookings," the email says. "It is also fair to say new bookings, certainly for the coming months, have reduced to a trickle."

Agency director Darren Brimacombe said "99 per cent of owners" supported the move, which his agency had introduced ahead of any nationwide shutdown of holiday bookings, which it expected the government would introduce.

A dramatic reduction in visitors following the ban on foreign tourists has already hit local businesses hard.

Meryl Bartak, owner of Lorne Beach Books, said she was trading with limited opening hours and offering home delivery, but the beach town was quiet.

"We have a wonderful hospital in Lorne but it couldn't cater for a full town, it would just be impossible," she said.

The permanent population of Lorne is 1114, but during holiday periods 10,000 people can be in the town.

Ms Bartak said it was likely people with holiday houses would still visit over the school holidays, and visitors in the town at the moment were doing a good job of adhering to social-distancing guidelines.

"What people are trying to do is maintain the physical distancing and maintain being kind and looking after each other and persuading people in the nicest possible way that perhaps it is not a great time to go touring," she said.

Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter

Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments at a glance, the numbers you need to know and what our readers are saying. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.

Looking for some good news?

We could all do with some good news right about now. That’s why we have launched The Good News Group, a Facebook group where we’ll share uplifting, inspiring and positive stories and invite members to do the same. Join the group here.

Source: Read Full Article