High Country businesses and communities decimated and destabilised by 2020 are yet to recoup any losses because of the seasonality of mountain trading, Victorian Alpine Resorts say.
In a submission to the government's inquiry into the impact of COVID on the tourism and visitor economy, six alpine resorts - Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Mt Buller, Mt Stirling, Mt Baw Baw and Lake Mountain - laid bare the ruinous financial and mental impact of the bushfires and pandemic.
In total, Victorian Alpine Resorts and the ski hire, accommodation and hospitality businesses nearby operated for just four days last winter.
"Bushfires followed by COVID-19 have decimated resort economies, which are largely comprised of small to medium sized businesses who operate on slim profit margins unable to absorb losses of this scale," the resorts wrote.
"For these businesses, whose profitability is tied to their livelihood and the sustainability of their families and homes, the situation is desperate.
"Morale is low, and depression and anxiety are rampant across the resorts. Mental health and social issues are further exacerbated by the isolated nature of these mountain communities."
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The resorts collective annual revenue of $53 million was significantly impacted, leading them to 'draw down all cash reserves'.
The High Country lost an estimated $600 million from January to June 2020 and a further, $700 million as of September quarter.
Job losses and stand downs occurred across the resorts in 2020 and businesses have had 'no capacity to pay' fees to resorts.
"An inability to meet business costs also points to the potential for business failure," the submission stated.
Unlike businesses in other areas of the state, High Country operations have been unable to recoup any losses.
"This seasonality means that many resort businesses have only operated for 4-days in a one year period - a challenge that is unique to the alpine industry and not experienced by any other commercial operators in the state," the resorts said.
"Indeed, while many Victorian businesses are enjoying a tourism resurgence and high visitor demand, the resorts must wait until the June 2021 start to the winter season to once again access revenue opportunities."
Businesses are also experiencing an increase in insurance premiums of up to 400 per cent, the submission said.
The resorts said it could take 'many years to return to a cash positive position without Government intervention'.
"If such financial support cannot be secured, resort recovery will be protracted, and progress stymied for many years to come," it said.
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