The phone has been ringing off the hook at the Marlo Ocean View Caravan Park since restrictions eased a couple of weeks ago.
For Les and Kathy Heyne, who took over the park in 2000 after managing it for five years, the constant phone calls are an overwhelming relief.
The couple has never done it so tough since the Victorian Government first introduced restrictions back in March and they were forced to expel holidaymakers.
“It’s been a pretty tough year actually,” Mrs Heyne told the Snowy River Mail.
“The first shutdown we didn’t know we were being closed down, there was no warning.”
However, since the easing of restrictions in regional Victoria, people are returning to the popular holiday destination.
“We’ve got a few people around and a few more this weekend,” Mrs Heyne said.
“It’s not as many as we’d like, but it’s a good start.”
The AFL grand final weekend in October has also made people think about getting away and booking a holiday at the Marlo park.
“The first half of the Christmas holidays we’re already booked out and the second half is filling up,” Mrs Heyne said.
Many of those who will occupy the 150 sites and cabins are holidaymakers whose plans were abruptly cancelled as a result of the summer bushfires.
The Heynes have simply transferred their bookings to the same time period that they would have had last year.
“While we’ve got quite a lot of bookings we’re not taking deposits just yet in case he changes his mind,” Mrs Heyne said in reference to Premier Daniel Andrews.
A waiting list has been set up for those unable to secure a spot in the unusual event there’s a cancellation.
“People are just itching to get out and about and go fishing and so on,” Mrs Heyne said.
“The amount of people who ring up, they’re just so excited about having a holiday.”
While the couple was banned from having holidaymakers in the park during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to accommodate essential workers and people without a fixed address.
The Heynes battled through, but there were many difficult times.
At one stage they struggled to pay the power bills.
“If we can get Christmas in that’s when the money will start rolling in,” Mrs Heyne said.
“It gives you hope it can only get better.”
BEMM RIVER OPEN
At the Bemm River Caravan Park, run by Greg and Mandy Forrester, it’s a similar story. Since Victoria lifted restrictions in regional areas, locals eager to escape the daily routine for a day or two have been checking in with five to six vans having set up camp overlooking the foreshore.
“September school holidays for us are normally quiet, so it’s about on average for us at the moment,” Mrs Forrester said.
“We’re getting locals mainly, people busting to get away for a few days from Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance - those within two or three hours drive of Bemm River.”
Mrs Forrester said she had also rebooked those people who were evacuated because of the fires last summer.
“We’re largely fully booked for sites and cabins over Christmas, but after the fourth or fifth of January there’s plenty of vacancies,” she said.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Mr Forrester was forced to find work elsewhere and assisted with the bushfire recovery effort.
Mrs Forrester says the family coped and she’s grateful for the health department’s response.
“The last thing we wanted was anyone in our park being unwell,” she said.
HANDFUL IN ORBOST
Alicia Laws from the Orbost Caravan Park said since the restrictions were eased in regional areas a handful of people had checked into the park. “We’re getting people from regional areas obviously, so it’s been good that people are starting to get out and about again, it’s great to see,” Ms Laws said. The park had been closed since July, but once the restrictions were eased, Ms Laws said the phone immediately started ringing.
“We’re not full or flat out but it’s just a nice amount of people to get the body used to working again,” she said.
Ms Laws said inquiries were also beginning to trickle in regarding Christmas accommodation.
“It’s a bit hard for people to make plans when you’re not sure what lays ahead, but we’ve been pleased with the response.
Ms Laws said she’d noticed vans on the highway heading further east to holiday destinations.
Les and Kathy Heyne, of Marlo Ocean View Caravan Park, are pleased to welcome back guests after months of uncertainty amid COVID-19 restrictions. The phones have been ringing and the park is expected to be full come Christmas time, barring no re-introduction of restrictions.