January is usually the busiest time of year for Sharon Le Strange and Kevin Morse who run holiday apartments in idyllic Merimbula on the New South Wales South Coast. Hit hard by the bushfire crisis – they were forced to send all their guests home with a full refund. Along with the rest of their close knit town they face a stressful year trying to recover. “I can’t even begin to imagine how everyone else is affected,” Sharon told Flying Solo.
What is the name of your business? The Palms Apartment Merimbula
How long have you run it?
I have been running The Palms for just over 2 years. When we took over it was in need of some TLC so in my first year I have renovated every apartment (6 in all). We have done all new kitchens, carpets, blinds, tapware, beds & bedding, lighting, painting inside and out. We have started on the outside gardens, but that’s still a work in progress!
2. How have you been impacted by the fires in your area?
We have been greatly impacted by the fires as we are a coastal tourist town that rely on our visitors who come and pay to stay with us. Unfortunately we had to send all the tourists home on 2nd January, so we refunded everyone who was staying with us as well as everyone else that was coming in over January. It has not only effected the holiday apartments and other accommodation businesses but every shop owner along with all of our staff. If we have no tourists we are not able to make money to pay staff who are mainly casual, so therefore they are out of work. It is such a huge impact that I can not even begin to imagine how it will effect everyone!”
3. What has this meant for your business?
January is normally such a busy time for us and is our main income source to get us over the quieter times of winter. We don’t spend the money we make, but we hold onto it for when winter sets in and we are quieter and the rates are much cheaper. I am unable to give my one staff member much work as she is casual. When there are no guests, there is no cleaning to be done.
4. Can you tell us what this time of year is ‘normally’ like for your business?
This time of year the town (and around the apartments) is normally full of such a buzz and great vibe. Everyone loves January as it is so relaxed! Nothing but smiling faces and the sound of happy children. The clubs and restaurants are overflowing. The constant in and out of guests arriving and departing, sometimes for just the night, and the constant washing that is being done to turn over the units for the next guests. It is so really sad to see ☹
5. What is #1 thing your guests tell you they love about your area?
My guests love our precious beaches, they love the fact that it is a quiet area and they love our temperature that is not too hot in summer and extremely mild in winter! They love the day trips they can make to other areas of our beautiful Sapphire Coast. There are so many things to love about the area. The coastal and bush walks, all the sporting facilities we have. What more do they need but sun, sand and surf?
6. What do you love about where you live?
I love it for all the same reasons that my guests love it! I also love our small community who have come together and help each other out in times of crisis. We are kind of like one big family. We all know someone who knows someone.
8. What do you need right now?
Right now we need to tourists to come back to our beautiful area. We need guests to starting booking our property which will then filter to the other businesses in town. We need bookings for right now, and we also need booking for the rest of the year.
9.Are you offering any special deals/offers that you’d like to promote
For the rest of January we have dropped our prices dramatically compared to what the normal January rate is. We have very reasonable rates anyway so believe that our guests are receiving a great deal. Unfortunately we can’t afford to drop our prices any further.