Australian tourism operators in New South Wales (NSW) Mid NorthCoast said the flooding rain last week dealt a huge blow as the emergency fell while the busy school holiday period was well underway.
NSW experienced record-breaking rainfall, leading to evacuations in parts of Tuncurry and Buladelah last Wednesday night, according to a report.
For most business owners in Forster-Tuncurry, a prime tourist destination during school holidays, the wet weather has damaged trade.
Forster Dive Centre Manager Adam Clarke couldn’t run dive tours since the massive rain event, which saw 200-300 millimeters fall on the region in just 24 hours.
“At the moment, the water is chocolate brown,” he said. “We had tours booked for the weekend that have since been canceled.”
The center had been completely booked out.
“A lot of our tourism comes from Newcastle and Sydney, so when the weather hit them, that created a ripple effect on us,” Clarke said.
“It’s been hard. We had floods last year and this year, COVID for the last couple of years. It’s just been one hit after the other, and now we’re really just trying to tread and keep our heads above water to survive.”
Flood-proof the future
The commonness of the region’s flooding events has prompted calls from Business NSW to the state government to look for longer-term strategies to protect its regional businesses.
Business NSW Regional Manager Kellon Beard said infrastructure were needed to be placed in flood-proof low-lying townships.
“It’s had an impact on a lot of businesses, and because of the blockage to roads and also with people being affected in their homes, they haven’t been able to go to work,” he said.
Two main access roads from the Pacific Highway into Forster-Tuncurry were cut off last Wednesday.
Clarke said the cut road led to additional cancellations as people were unsure when it would re-open.
While Coffs Harbour escaped major flooding, Neil Manson from the Observatory Holiday Apartments said this rain event and others had had an impact.
He said forward booking rates had dropped significantly this winter compared to previous years.
He thought people feared making booking commitments because of the uncertainty and frequent flooding over the past year.
“There’s a number of factors including recent elections, talk of interest rate rises, and of course the weather,” he said. “They all seem to combine, and people have lost confidence in forward bookings.”
Nick Jacobs, the general manager of a Forster-Tuncurry holiday park on the Coolongolook River, was forced to evacuate several hundred residents last Wednesday night because of a rapidly rising tide.
“We had already seen some cancellations as a result of the weather event that was happening around the whole region and Sydney, but this was just another blow,” Jacobs said.
The holiday-goers stayed in a nearby evacuation center in Tuncurry before being allowed back on Thursday morning.
He said while there was a clean-up effort, he felt thankful there was no significant damage.
“We are certainly feeling very blessed compared to so many other people that have been seriously adversely affected,” he said.
Jacobs said his business and many others in town are optimistic for the second week of the school holidays.
“That’s the beauty of regional New South Wales … there’s such a sense of community spirit,” he said.
This article originally appeared on ABC News.