Hunter Valley: Tourists alone won’t solve $160 million economic loss threatening its future

The excitement of welcoming tourists back to the Hunter Valley is being over shadowed by the enormity of the economic cost of the COVID-19 shutdown. An uncertain future still looms large for many wine and tourism businesses.

Amy Cooper, CEO of the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association (HVWTA) reports that “figures released by the HVWTA reveal that COVID-19 has caused an $85 million loss to the Hunter Valley economy from March to May 2020. 100% of businesses in the Hunter Valley’s wine and tourism industry have reported a significant reduction in revenue, with close to half of all businesses suffering a complete loss of income since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in mid March.”

80% of businesses have had to close, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing either full or partial closures. Businesses in the Hunter Valley have experienced an overall 95% reduction in business activity, with the tourism sector – accommodation, tour operators, activities & attractions, restaurants, cafes & bars – hardest hit by this pandemic.

“COVID-19 decimated our economy, which was already devastated by drought and the summer bushfires. With an annual wine tourism economy valued at $557 million per annum. The running economic loss for the Hunter Valley is conservatively calculated at a staggering $160 million since the bushfires started in our region in November 2019. Our industry requires urgent protection and immediate assistance,” says Christina Tulloch, President of the HVWTA.

Hunter Valley Wine Country is the most visited wine destination in Australia, making it the nation’s most important wine tourism asset. At 192 years old, it is Australia’s oldest wine region. The Hunter Valley is home to many of our most iconic wine brands. 2,800 people are regularly employed in Wine Country, representing $104 million in wages annually.

“Even with the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper support payment saving hundreds of jobs across our region. Three out of four businesses have still had to decrease their staffing levels, with over half of all Hunter Valley businesses having reduced their teams by 50% or more. Our industry needs certainty from Government about support beyond September” says Ms Cooper.

The majority of Wine Country industry is small businesses, from owner operator run to employing up to 25 staff. It will take time and significant support for these small businesses to get back on their feet. Particularly, as businesses are collectively facing a projected loss of up to $298 million over a 12 month period.

“A number of businesses have already made the incredibly difficult decision to permanently close. It’s a final heartbreaking call for people to let go of their livelihood, that they’ve invested years, if not decades in. So it is deeply concerning that 3 out of 4 businesses are reporting that they are uncertain and not confident in their viability over the next 12 months. The future of our wine tourism industry is under threat,” says Ms Cooper

“We were already having a tough time with drought and then bushfires in the Valley, COVID-19 has taken a huge personal toll on our people. We are normally a very connected community. The added burden of social isolation is challenging when people are under so much stress and pressure. Sadly, 1 in 5 people have shared with us that they have experienced a decline in their mental health and wellbeing. The HVWTA wants to be here to support our people in their greatest time of need” says Ms Tulloch.

The HVWTA is a member based not-for-profit, responsible for the sustainability of the wine tourism industry and destination marketing to attract visitors to the Hunter Valley. The history of the Association dates back over 173 years. However, the HVWTA currently receives no local, state or federal funding.

“The Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association is wholly a membership-funded organisation. Our businesses are just hanging on. They need the support of their industry Association now more than ever. So the HVWTA is calling on government for critical funding investment. Our industry has identified a number key of ways that government can be active in assisting recovery efforts. We want government to work with the HVWTA to ensure the Hunter Valley has a strong, viable and vibrant wine tourism industry into the future” says Ms Tulloch.

Source: Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association

Thredbo Announces Winter Season Opening Date of 22 June

Skiers and snowboarders, start tuning your edges and melting wax, this is the news snow lovers have been waiting for. With the easing of regulations, Thredbo is thrilled to announce it is planning to open for the winter season from 22 June 2020, conditions permitting.

To enable the resort to open for skiing and snowboarding, Thredbo will be implementing a revised operating model that has been developed under the advice provided by the NSW Health Department and the State and Federal Governments. The revised model includes reduced daily capacity limits by up to 50% on usual capacity at this stage and the implementation of a range of social distancing and sanitisation measures.

On the mountain, daily capacity will be limited to enable the resort to open under the Government restrictions. As a result, all guests will need to pre-purchase day lift passes or multi-day passes prior to arrival. Season Pass holders will be offered the choice of a refund or credit for their pre-purchased passes and will be provided with access to discounted day passes*. Thredbo will be communicating with all Season Pass holders by Thursday 4 June in relation to their options. Throughout the season, guests will be encouraged to use contactless payment using MyThredbo cards across all Thredbo outlets.

Other measures include 1.5m ‘ski tip to tail’ social distancing in lift queues and a limit of two per quad chair, two per gondola cabin and one per T-bar. Given the limited capacity, it is expected that skiers and snowboarders will incur wait times similar to a normal season. In addition, only private skiing and snowboarding lessons are able to be offered. Thredboland will be unable to open at the time of the season opening, but this will continue to be monitored as restrictions ease. Restaurants and bars will operate in alignment with Government restrictions as they continue to evolve.

The resort has invested in best practice hygiene and sanitisation measures including installing sanitisation stations throughout the resort and has incorporated new procedures to effectively sanitise high use areas including chairlifts, gondola cabins and rental equipment. The resort has also enhanced its stringent approach to cleaning all resort facilities and venues.

Thredbo Resort General Manager Stuart Diver says the resort is looking forward to welcoming guests back and has implemented an operating model to allow guests to ski and snowboard this winter.

“The wellbeing of our guests and our people is always our highest priority at Thredbo. We have worked hard with the relevant authorities to be able to open Thredbo this winter, which will look quite different to previous years. Our revised operating model is necessary for us to operate within the NSW Government’s social distancing restrictions and capacity restraints, to allow us to open.”

“We would really appreciate if guests could exercise patience as we navigate through the season and play their part in respecting social distancing requirements. We’ll be communicating all safety messages to our guests prior to arrival and remind guests they should not visit the resort if they are unwell.”

“After such a challenging start to 2020 with the bushfires and now COVID-19, we are so pleased to open and we’re confident we will continue to deliver Australia’s best skiing and snowboarding this winter. We will be opening our new Merritts Gondola, Australia’s only alpine gondola, as well as the enhanced ‘Dream Run’ experience with a new snowmaking system installed along with increased car parking.”

Thredbo’s revised product offering including day passes, private lessons, ski and snowboard rental and accommodation will be available for pre-purchase from 11.59pm on Wednesday 10 June by visiting

Source: Thredbo

Are You Ready To Experience Australia Like Never Before?

The VIP Sydney have collaborated with Southern Crossings, a leading luxury travel specialist with over 30-years experience in high-end travel throughout Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, to create the first in a series of prestige, local experiences and escapes, in time for the ease of the Covid-19 lockdown. International travel may be on hold but local luxury experiences are certainly not.

Private Tour & Dinner with Aussie Legend Michael Clarke at The SCG – A private tour and dinner at Sydney Cricket Ground hosted by cricket Legend, Michael Clarke, plus signed cricket memorabilia for up to 14 guests.

The Ultimate Palm Beach Getaway – The ultimate Palm Beach escape including a 2 night stay in a luxe waterfront property, seaplane travel to and from the city, a stocked pantry of local gourmet produce, private chef, full use of a Range Rover Vogue, lunch at Jonah’s Whale Beach and much more.

Beauty Masterclass with Celebrity Make-Up Artist, Michael Brown – A 2-hour makeup masterclass at a private residence of your choice with celebrity artist Michael Brown, hors d’oeuvres, free-flowing Champagne, personalised makeup kit, followed by a dinner reservation at an exclusive Sydney venue.

A Days Escape to the Wine Country – A private helicopter charter for 6 guests to the Hunter Valley’s acclaimed Chardonnay producer, Winmark Estate. Including a gourmet lunch within the vines, private tour with head winemaker John Samway, tasting and selection of premium wines to take home.

Source: The VIP Sydney

Socially Distant, yet wildly connected - Forward Plan a Nihi Sumba stay with Australian residents offer

Socially distant, yet wildly connected – this is Nihi Sumba; Now is the time to forward plan an escape to the edge of wildness, as Nihi Sumba announces a special “One to One” rate, exclusive to Australian residents, matching Australian dollars to US dollars and valid from July 1, 2020 until December 2021.

For example, Nihi’s entry level accommodation rate, normally USD $895.00 per villa per night, will be adjusted for Australian guests to AUS $895.00. In addition, all Australian bookings will be given a USD $200.00 resort credit per room per night to be applied to a range of unique Nihi experiences, from spa safaris to fishing expeditions and more.

Nihi is beyond an escape from everyday life, it is a return to a life well lived. Voted #1 Hotel in the World two years running by Travel + Leisure (USA) magazine, Nihi Sumba is a place to truly connect with something larger than oneself. Nihi guests enjoy “freedom to thrive”. It is travel with purpose.

Located on the remote Indonesian island of Sumba and with just 28 villas set over 576 acres, Nihi is just a short 50 minute flight from Bali. Nihi provides a haven for the endlessly passionate and curious, the adventurer and the wanderer. Ancient tribal culture and unspoiled natural beauty form the perfect backdrop for boundless experiences.

From swimming with horses at sunset, surfing the world’s most coveted wave, enjoying long walks on an unspoiled and often deserted beach to being pampered at the Spa Safari, Nihi is the place to build a highly personal, dream itinerary.

Staying in villas that transport to a new way of relaxed living, and enjoying sunset cocktails at the iconic Boathouse and dining in open air, sand under feet restaurants, Nihi offers experiences that are truly memorable and like no other.

Those who arrive with an open heart leave changed forever. This very special Australian residents offer includes:

• 3 Daily meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner and all non-alcoholic drinks
• Mini Bar (1 full re-stock per day, including beer and spirits)
• Tour of the Sumba Foundation Projects
• Sea Activities: stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling around Nihiwatu beach (when weather conditions permit).
• Participation in our group yoga & meditation classes at the Yoga Pavilion twice a day

• Valid until Dec 2021
• This offer is not available for group bookings
• Cannot be combined with any other promotions
• Rate is exclusive of 11% government tax and 10% service charge
• Applicable to Australian residents only (proof of address must be presented upon booking and at check in time. Should the guests fail to provide a valid proof of identification / residency in Australia, the rack rate at time of stay will be charged

Source:  Nihi Sumba

Qantas group outlines customer and employee impact of coronavirus-related network cuts

The Qantas Group has outlined the customer and employee impact of a huge drop in travel demand triggered by the public health response to the Coronavirus crisis.

Earlier this week, cuts to 90 per cent of international flying and about 60 per cent of domestic flying were announced by Qantas and Jetstar. With the Federal Government now recommending against all overseas travel from Australia, regularly scheduled international flights will continue until late March to assist with repatriation and will then be suspended until at least the end of May 2020. As the national carrier, Qantas is in ongoing discussions with the Federal Government about continuation of some strategic links.

More than 150 aircraft will be temporarily grounded, including all of Qantas’ A380s, 747s and B787-9s and Jetstar’s B787-8s.  Discussions are progressing with airports and government about parking for these aircraft.

Essential domestic, regional and freight connections will be maintained as much as possible.

Qantas’ fleet of freighters will continue to be fully utilised. Some domestic passenger aircraft will also be used for freight-only flights to replace lost capacity from regular scheduled services. There is no impact on Qantas Loyalty’s operations.

  • All regularly scheduled Qantas and Jetstar international flights from Australia will be suspended from end March until at least end May 2020. Some flights may continue in order to maintain key links, based on ongoing discussions with the Federal Government.
  • Jetstar Asia (Singapore) will suspend all flights from 23 March to at least 15 April 2020.
  • Jetstar Japan has suspended international flights and cut domestic flying.
  • Jetstar Pacific (Vietnam) has suspended international flights and will significantly cut domestic flying.

The Group will maintain connectivity to almost all Australian domestic and regional destinations that Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar currently operate to. The 60 per cent reduction in capacity will come mostly from a significant reduction in flight frequency, but also route suspensions and postponing a number of new route launches.

Comments from Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce:

“The efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before. This is having a devastating impact on all airlines.

“We’re in a strong financial position right now, but our wages bill is more than $4 billion a year. With the huge drop in revenue we’re facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier.

“The reality is we’ll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there’s no work for most of our people. Rather than lose these highly skilled employees who we’ll need when this crisis passes, we are instead standing down two-thirds of our 30,000 employees until at least the end of May.”

“Most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we’ll have a number of support options in place. We’re also talking to our partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people.”

Source: Qantas