Summer Vacation ‘Stays’ Become More Acceptable Amid Pandemic Pain

Summer vacation has always been a logistical mission for many, but try to fly away during a global pandemic.

Testing issues, headaches at the border and the threat of being forced into quarantine on return make people wonder if a big trip is worth it.

Instead, many are turning to a “stay” – a vacation closer to home, hopefully free from the coronavirus and the pains of the pandemic.

In Western Australia’s Kimberley region, the stay helped a resort recover from a new wave of cancellations.

Visitors to the NT have been barred from traveling to Lake Argyle during this holiday period due to border restrictions. (Provided: Tourism WA)

Lake Argyle is a popular destination for Northerners to celebrate New Years Eve when options during the rainy season may be limited.

However, Lake Argyle Resort lost up to 150 bookings for the holiday period in a matter of days due to the latest WA border restrictions on the NT.

Resort owner Charlie Sharpe has largely filled the void by marketing a discounted vacation home to locals within an hour’s drive of Kununurra.

“Those I spoke to, a lot of them were planning to go into the territory or cross the east coast or go down to Perth,” he said.

“They looked at it and thought ‘we’re just going to stay home for a change’.”

Quarantine risk keeps people closer to home

woman in bikini relaxes on tropical beach
While Chelsea Fruhwirth enjoys traveling, she chose to spend NYE just down the road.(Provided: Georgia Palladino)

Kununurra resident Chelsea Fruhwirth said uncertainty had motivated her to choose Lake Argyle as a place to relax and party on New Years Eve.

“The stress of COVID is removed knowing that we have 100% certainty that the lake is really good for us,” she said.

She said her initial hope of traveling to Perth to see family and friends was dashed due to an outbreak in the city.

Residents help fill seaside resorts

While the rise of pandemic-motivated stays has been widely reported across the world, across the Kimberley in Broome, the concept is nothing new.

The city, known for its pearls, Pindanese coastal colors and beautiful beaches, teems with tourists every dry season.

But at Christmas, that’s another story.

Two men watch the sunset over Broome's Cable Beach
Broome attracts visitors from all over the world during the dry season, but the town’s resorts are now more dependent on locals.(ABC Kimberley: Tom Forrest )

Instead of welcoming travelers from faraway places, Habitat Resort’s Michael Leake welcomes residents who have traveled within a few blocks of their own home.

“And it’s pretty cheap because they don’t have to pay for the plane ticket.”

Mr Leake said he has noticed an increase in demand for vacations in his hometown since the start of the pandemic, although the market is difficult to quantify.

“A lot of people must have turned down this year because we are unfortunately full. I’m sure that probably had an effect,” he said.

a swimming pool surrounded by red rocks and palm trees
Habitat Resort is a popular place for residents of Broome to spend a break while on vacation.(Provided: Michael Leake)

Mr Sharpe said the stay market could become even bigger for his resort at a time when massive cancellations have become a recurring occurrence in East Kimberley.

“It’s pretty crucial for us,” he said.

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