It’s a sizzler of a start to the holiday season with Merimbula accommodation booked solid from Boxing Day to January 2 but then cracks appear and increase until the last week of January when vacancy signs are likely to spring up in multiples around the town.
This one week peak period has become a feature of the holiday phenomenon in Merimbula since work and holiday patterns changed early last decade.
It has also demanded change of the local industry with accommodation providers now more willing to accommodate flexible bookings as opposed to the rigorous week to week they once insisted upon.
There has also been a move that instead of sticking out for the high Christmas premium peak rate throughout January, the industry is more willing to discount holiday rents as it comes to terms with the fiercely competitive overseas market and recognises the merit that a filled unit at a reduced rent is better than an empty one.
A strong exponent of this marketing strategy is Don Peterson of “Gotta Getaway” the biggest holiday letting agent in the region with over 80 properties on his books.
His properties are booked solid for the first two weeks of the season, and he says if he had 30 more properties he could have filled them for that period.
However, when the News Weekly spoke with Mr Peterson on Thursday December 20, his revenues were down 10 per cent and bookings for the month of January down by 13 per cent but of course that may change over the coming weeks.
Mr Peterson said that 84 per cent of his holiday rental properties were booked for week three but then there was a big drop with only 45 per cent booked for the last week of January.
He said the bookings were not as strong as in previous years. As the heat goes out of the market in the second and third weeks of January, he will consider offering discounts of 25 per cent and could consider a 40 per cent discount for the last week in January.
Mr Peterson said landlords who refused to acknowledge that there had been a change in holiday patterns and price expectations would find their properties hard to let.
“The days of seven-day bookings are gone. If someone is willing to pay a premium price for five days they should grab it.”
Mr Peterson said properties with accommodation for 8 to 10 people were the first to be snapped up and they were booked out in October.
He said that Tura Beach was becoming more popular as a place to stay because properties were modern and well equipped whereas Pambula Beach was losing some of its appeal because homes were of an older style and had not been updated.
Merimbula was booked out for the Christmas–New Year week said, Reneal Schreiber, Merimbula Visitor Information Centre (MVIC) manager.
She said holiday enquiries for that week were being directed to Eden, Tathra and Bermagui, when the News Weekly spoke with her on Thursday December 20.
Ms Schreiber said the MVIC had taken “a fabulous volume of enquiry” and the trend was definitely for shorter term stays.
She said the bookings were on par with last year, but some sectors of the accommodation industry had stronger demand than others. She said the hot pick was apartments as “people want to self-cater.”
Motels had “healthy bookings” for the Christmas week as visitors unable to book an apartment looked for other options, Ms Schreiber said.
Caravan parks maintained their popularity particularly in this budget conscious environment.
Merimbula has established itself as a family holiday destination and true to form families are the dominant tourism demographic this season.
Volunteers and management had been run off their feet with in excess of 500 visitors a day and Ms Schreiber reported that the number jumped to 1000 a day from December 23.
On Friday, December 28, the centre had already received 547 visitors by midday.
“That’s sensational!” she said.
Speaking generally about the tourism industry Ms Schreiber said she had noticed a big increase in the number of international visitors especially those from northern Europe and from China visiting the area in the last few months.