Tasmanian businesses are counting the cost of the cancellation of this year’s Dark Mofo festival, as tourists rush to cancel accommodation bookings in Hobart.
- The June festival will not go ahead this year due to the threat posed by coronavirus
- Tourism operators and accommodation providers say the decision has already led to booking cancellations
- The festival brings thousands of people to Hobart from interstate and overseas
MONA founder David Walsh announced on Wednesday the winter festival would not go ahead this year because of the financial risk posed by coronavirus.
Organisers said if they had been forced to cancel the June festival at the last minute, the financial impact would have run into the millions and likely ended the event permanently.
The event has been running since 2013 and is credited with bringing Hobart to life in the depths of winter.
John White, the owner of Hobart’s Edinburgh Gallery Bed and Breakfast, said the news came on the back of an already tough year, with bookings down due to bushfires, floods and coronavirus.
“I had the whole two weeks of Dark Mofo pretty well booked out,” Mr White said.
“Within an hour of the announcement yesterday I had eight bookings cancelled, and I fully expect that most of those other bookings will cancel over time as the word spreads.”
Mr White said it would likely mean he would take on responsibility for cleaning rooms during winter, because he would not have the cashflow to employ his usual cleaners.
Award-winning tourism operator Robert Pennicott said he had organised a meeting with his bank manager to plan for worst-case scenarios to ensure he could continue supporting both permanent and casual staff.
“[I want to] work out a system that if the worst things happen and numbers drop a lot more that we look after our knowledgeable and trained staff so that next season when we do bounce back, we bounce back without having to do a lot of training,” he said.
Mr Pennicott said his company was also introducing a strict hand-washing regime, and inquiring into whether guests could be turned away if they appeared to be unwell.
Tasmania’s meat producers are also considering the fallout from Dark Mofo’s cancellation.
Many will be left with excess stock they had expected to sell during the festival.
Broadchurch Farm’s Calum Jacobsen said he had been raising 50 additional chickens — about 100kg worth — for the event in the expectation of increased demand from Hobart’s restaurants and butcher shops.
“It’s definitely an extra challenge. It’s going to require a bit more work to move the product, to store the product, to make those connections, definitely,” he said.
“We will be able to move the product that we’ve produced for it, it just won’t be to the restaurants in the same quantity.”
Health Minister Sarah Courtney said Tasmanians should “get on with life,” as the Government worked with MONA to set up a smaller event in place of Dark Mofo.
“We want to see our hospitality industry thriving here in Tasmania. We know that the winter months can be challenging, so we want to support Tasmanian businesses and Tasmanians in jobs,” Ms Courtney said.
“To date in Tasmania, we have not had community transmission. We want to see life go on for Tasmanians and that’s what we’re encouraging Tasmanians to do.
“If that situation changes, if risk profiles change, we will update people accordingly.”