Tourism weathers smoky storm

SOME Latrobe Valley motels and tourism operators are reporting increased business as a result of the Hazelwood mine fire.

“Morwell accommodation is full. A number of owners there are finding that they’ve got a full house with CFA (Country Fire Authority) and other agencies, which is great trade,” Destination Gippsland spokesperson Andrew Wilson said.

However, the spokesperson said some Morwell bookings were also being pushed to Traralgon.

“I think that’s a good thing, at least people are staying in Gippsland. It’s changing everyday with which way the wind is blowing,” they said.

Morwell Motel co-owners Grant Maddern and Anthony L Mayer reported their best month ever at their Princes Drive facility, while receiving some cancellations due to reported smoky conditions.

Co-owner Mr Mayer said he was of the opinion that some of the “sensationalised” media reports were doing more damage than the smoke itself.

“There are going to be negative impacts, but if you run your business well and you care about your guests, that is what drives business,” he said.

“There are positives to this. Every motel is nearly full, every restaurant is doing more trade, the vehicle hire company is busy and the washing is busy and people are employing more staff.”

However, some owners are frustrated to lose some business to Traralgon.

The Morwell Motel co-owner said one woman booked for half an hour at their motel, but later cancelled and booked somewhere in Traralgon, knowing the area was “hard-up for accommodation”.

“My biggest frustration is that I’ve been to Traralgon a few times and it’s been smoky, sooty and ashy, but that’s not getting reported in the media,” Mr Maddern.

“We’re getting lots of cancellations, people are cancelling here and re-booking in Traralgon. Half of the time Traralgon is just as bad as here.

“You haven’t been able to get a motel in Traralgon for the past three weeks.”

Morwell Parkside Motel owner Geoff Sheridan said he drove around Traralgon on Wednesday afternoon and saw many no vacancy signs and echoed media reports were Morwell centric.

“People who would normally stay with me are staying in Traralgon. I’m not happy about that. The picture has only been put on Morwell,” Mr Sheridan said.

The Destination Gippsland spokesperson said the organisation was currently in the process of rolling out an initiative to offer respite to Morwell residents.

The spokesperson said it would not involve holiday homes but accommodation facilities offering respite to families for three or four days, with further details to be announced soon.