I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that this is an Easter weekend like no other. In the past, this holiday period would’ve been one of the local tourism industry’s major economic drivers, but we’re currently looking at a very different landscape with everyone being told to stay home.
But there are reasons to be optimistic. Local tourism operators are telling us, for example, that 80% of customers are postponing bookings rather than cancelling. In some cases, this has meant operators have had to change or create a cancellation policy to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
And the ability to adapt fast and work differently as a result of these new circumstances is really starting to become a characteristic of many local businesses.
I think we’re all aware that a lot of cafes and restaurants have taken the new public health restrictions on board very positively and switched to takeaways only, while still providing a great service. Many haven’t just stuck to their tried and trusted menus, they’ve spent time considering how best to provide a great takeaway offering by, in some cases, making the menus smaller and better suited to takeaway.
One local business suggested to Council that 15-minute pick-up parking zones in café precincts would help support these initiatives and we were very happy to help by installing relevant signage in appropriate locations in Coffs Harbour, Sawtell, the Jetty area and Woolgoolga.
We’re very keen to hear more good ideas like that one and are asking anyone with any suggestions to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Similarly, Council has also had to adapt the way we do things. One of the most public was switching our own Coffs Coast Growers Market to a virtual market via a website – www.coffscoastharvest.com.au/coffs-coast-growers-market – that means customers can still get local fresh fruit, vegetables and other goods that they want and producers still have a way to sell their products to customers. Our library staff have also found some very innovative ways to keep providing their popular children’s services in a safe, socially-distanced online format.
As an organisation as a whole, we have undergone a major internet upgrade so that our systems can support a large number of staff working from home. This means we can ensure we continue to meet the needs of the community while also protecting the health of our staff.
This major body of work would not normally have been done in such a short timescale, but our staff did a magnificent job over a weekend and developed a whole new platform to meet current circumstances that will now set us up for a different way of working well into the future.
The crisis has meant we are all facing some serious challenges, but the innovation and flexibility being shown by locals is something we can all admire and appreciate.