Melbourne Enters Stage 4 Restrictions: What Does It Mean For Travel Businesses?

As a direct response to continued record spikes in COVID-19 cases in Victoria, state Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement yesterday that Melbourne would enter Stage 4 restrictions with a state of 'disaster and emergency' declared.

As a direct response to continued record spikes in COVID-19 cases in Victoria, state Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement yesterday that Melbourne would enter Stage 4 restrictions with a state of ‘disaster and emergency’ declared.

Yesterday’s announcement meant that as of last night, Melburnians would be under a COVID-19 curfew from 8pm until 5am with new laws in place for another 6 weeks until 11:59pm on Sunday, 13 September.

Residents in Melbourne are now only allowed to leave their home to go to work, give or receive care, shop for food and essential supplies or visit a partner.

Daily exercise is also limited to one hour once per day and must be within 5km of home and with only one other person or a member of your household.

You can get all of the Stage 4 restrictions including the rest of the state’s rules under current Stage 3 at www.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-victoria.

What does this mean for businesses?

Royal Arcade, Melbourne
The Royal Arcade, Melbourne

While the details are still being worked through, as of this Wednesday, August 5, there will be three categories as to who can trade and how for the next six weeks at least.

  • Specific business can trade as usual: Including supermarkets, food stores, liquor shops, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, newsagents, post offices and outlets selling disability and maternity supplies.
  • Some businesses will be forced to reduce their total output: These are businesses such as factories with the aim of fewer shifts and less contact between workers.
  • A number of businesses will be forced to close: Many businesses will be instructed to move to a work-from-home model if they have not already or close if they cannot. This will likely include travel agencies and companies who had only recently returned to the workplace, if at all.

With schools and child care centres also closing, there will be increased pressure for working parents and carers to again juggle both work, homeschooling and looking after the little ones.

Speaking to the ABC, Australian Industry Group’s Victorian head, Tim Piper, said the announcement had created “a huge amount of uncertainty and indeed panic with some companies”.

“How are they going to stay open? How are they going to deal with interstate colleagues, how are they going to deal with overseas, how they’re going to deal locally?

“How are they going to pay their employees if they are forced to stand them down? To what extent are they going to get any support for themselves?

“There are so many questions that remain unanswered around this, and the companies will be asking us all week as to what the next steps are,” he said.

What about traveller sentiment vs bookings?

Victoria's High Country, Tour De Vines
Victoria’s High Country, Tour De Vines

With domestic travel already heavily impacted due to nationwide state border closures to Victorians and Queensland now also closed to Sydneysiders, along with decreased flight connectivity and many tours and properties remaining shut, interstate travel is already fractured.

Speaking to KARRYON, Damian Cerini, founder of cycling company Tour De Vines who operate tours all over Australia and are based in Melbourne said: “While our staff are working remotely and that’s worked well, the sentiment overall in travel is negative. We have had two cancellations this morning off the back of the Victoria issue escalating purely based on nervousness, no real restrictions or rules preventing those guests from travelling.”

“I need to visit the office today and am uncertain if that’s even legal! So it’s definitely having an impact. Having said all that, we have seen bookings on our NSW and SA tours in the last week, and that’s encouraging, and it tells me there is certainly an appetite for travel,” he said.

“We did see strong bookings in June when things looked more encouraging, so my read is that there is some pent up demand, we just need to get on top of the spread. Fingers crossed that can happen sooner rather than later.”

Mr Cerini added that he felt more industry cohesion was needed to ramp up the domestic offering, saying “It would be great if the agent community, in particular, could start looking to us smaller, local tour operators as something they could sell.”

We’re thinking of all our Melbourne and Victorian friends today and sending love south. You’ve got this. #TogetherInTravel

Posted by KARRYON on Saturday, August 1, 2020

Meanwhile, Melbourne agent Melissa Anderson told us “I can’t see stage 4 being any different to stage 3 in terms of our sales. My staff have the option of coming into the office or from home. Some prefer getting out and others need to be home to juggle home education with kids.”

“If they are working in-store, the door is locked. If two or more staff members happen to be in the office at the same time then masks are worn. Who knows what will need to change after today’s announcement. My gut feel is we will be directed to stay home but I hope we can keep working in a locked office, more for my sanity to get out of the house.” Ms Anderson said.

Emma Coburn, a home-based agent in regional Victoria said “basically for my clients – until they know that they are able to travel interstate and internationally without restrictions they won’t book. I did have a handful of trips booked for Victorian getaways but am now busy once again cancelling everything. This time around it’s even more depressing. I would just love to see the light at the end of a very long dark tunnel.”

A desolated Federation Square, Melbourne

Paul Gorman, Senior Manager, Owner Engagement at Luxury Escapes based in Melbourne added “Our office has not reopened since the first shutdown and the working from home model is going ok. The new measures implemented last night are not a quantum leap from where we were if you were doing the right thing.”

“What we do need to know,” Paul explains, “is what the outcome needs to be before we regain freedom of movement. We/I am not prepared mentally for continually opening and closing of the economy every time the virus numbers head up or down.”

“The states need to come out and say what is required for borders to open so we know what the thresholds are. It has to be a cohesive nationwide stance.”

Paul Gorman, Senior Manager, Owner Engagement at Luxury Escapes

Hopefully, the Melbourne and Victoria situation at least should become a little clearer at least in the next few days. However, still, the ‘certainty’ word and a plan to get the travel industry there is the crucially lacking piece to an ever-growing puzzle.

In the meantime, stay safe Melbourne and Victoria. We’re thinking of you.

Got a comment or opinion to share? Email us at [email protected]