What is the future of restauranting and cafes in Airlie Beach? Kevin Collins, Fish D'Vine


Thu 28 May 2020

Podcast Audio

John Nayler from Deja.vu Magazine talks to Kevin Collins, the owner of Fish D'Vine Restaurant, about the future of restaurants and cafes in Airlie Beach.

Kevin explains that ultimately the restaurants and cafes in a tourist town like Airlie Beach are a service industry to the wider Tourism Industry. The population of Airlie Beach is around 7,000, with 77 restaurants operating prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In reality, per capita this small town is enormously oversupplied - without the tourist trade. Airlie Beach realistically needs about 7 restaurants. However, as a mainstream tourist destination, it cannot possibly survive without tourists. Until the tourists return there has to be a consolidation of the restaurants and cafes that are there.

Unfortunately, 10% of the restaurants have closed and the ‘FOR LEASE' signs have gone up. There are also a large number that are sitting idle receiving Jobkeeper payments while accruing massive debts in rental and overheads. When things do get back to normal it will be very difficult for these restaurants to get back on track, hence consolidation will be the only way forward.

As a tourist destination, Airlie Beach offers the whole holiday package of accommodation, restaurants, cafes, cruises and tours of the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. When Airlie Beach is at capacity these 77 Restaurants would be full of customers. Statistics show that 400,000 Queenslanders visit each year, there are 250,000 interstate visitors making up the bulk of the dollars spent. The town had also geared up for the Chinese tourism market however, there is no prospect of them returning in the medium term. The talk is that the International travel industry will not recover from this until 2023.

Kevin said, "Yes we heavily invested in the Chinese market which was strong and around 20% of our business". "If there is a single spark of hope, it is that Australians love to travel, so if Australian's thirst for travel continues and it is not unabated within Australia, which at this stage we are in the dark about, then the various industries here in Airlie Beach will potentially survive". "We need the intrastate and interstate visitors!". "We need the planes back in the air, we have to find a way". "This is a sustainable industry if the tourists come". "It is ridiculous that the borders of Sydney and Melbourne are open and they can visit each other however, we can't have a person come from Tweed Heads and cross the border into Queensland". "We acknowledge and respect that the Australian and Queensland Governments have done a fabulous job controlling the COVID-19 pandemic plus supporting the economics of the Nation but, it is time for us to get back to operating normal business practices".

"One of the major impacts that we are now facing, is the Mental Health challenges that are prominent across Australia, particularly from business owners who have gone broke or are heading towards going broke". "They have not just lost their business, they most likely mortgaged their house to get the money to open the business, have a long lease agreement, had to do a shop fitout, have obligations to their staff…..so it is a domino effect that continues to fall across every spectrum of their lives". "A small business failure is someone's life being absolutely ruined and possibly they will never recover from it!"

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. The town relies on the tourist trade. There is nothing else to keep it afloat. Annastasia Palaszczuk please work out a way to get the planes in the air and open up the Queensland borders, before we have no Airlie Beach tourist industry left. Opening Queensland is the way to retain the popular vote.Airlie Beach restaurants on the menu

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