It’s amazing how much can change in the space of two weeks, and at the same time how little can change in a year.
Since I first wrote about planning for this year’s ski trip, just two weeks ago, South Australia joined Victoria in a hard lockdown and then both states came out of their respective lockdowns but under restrictions. The COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales has worsened and Sydney’s lockdown has been extended until at least 28 August.
All three states have shut their borders to each other.
Basically, we are right back to where we were a year ago and, unfortunately, I am updating you from my desk rather than after a day of great turns on the snow.
The Decision to Cancel and Postpone
Our plan was originally to ski at Falls Creek, VIC the last weekend of July and at Thredbo, NSW the last week of August. We held off on making the call to postpone this weekend’s trip as long as possible, but by Thursday, it was pretty clear that the borders weren’t going to open.
With at least half of the new NSW cases each day being out in the community while infectious, it is very likely that their lockdown will be extended even longer. We decided the smart play was to postpone the Thredbo trip as well.
After reviewing the likely border restrictions and the various cancellation policies from each of the resorts and accommodation suppliers, we determined the best option was to cancel and take refunds where we could. While I still consider the trips postponed, having the money in hand will give us the most flexibility to rebook as restrictions and weather conditions change.
COVID-19 Cancellation Policies
We are now working through the process of cancelling and getting refunds for the lift tickets, resort entry and accommodation (and I thank hubby for making those phone calls). The good thing is that most places have more flexible cancellation policies than normal because of the pandemic and related border restrictions.
Under the resorts’ COVID-19 cancellation rules, we will get a full refund on the lift tickets, lessons and resort entry because we are unable to travel due to border restrictions.
The Falls Creek accommodation has offered a 12-month credit on the accommodation or a refund less a $250 cancellation fee. This is very reasonable (and much better than their normal no-refund within 45 days of arrival policy). I understand that the accommodation still has to make some money, but the cancellation is also out of our control.
The Thredbo accommodation will offer a credit for up to 18 months, which we can use at their Australian or New Zealand resorts. This is also reasonable. However, we have to wait a bit longer to find out if they will actually give us a credit. We are due to check in one day after the NSW lockdown restrictions are set to end, so they are claiming that they can’t give us a credit yet. This seems pretty unreasonable and hampers our ability to rebook a trip to Victoria.
Border Restriction Complications
It is highly unlikely that SA will open up the border to NSW the day the lockdown ends (based on past decisions), and they certainly won’t make that decision until after we will already need to be on the road – it’s a 13-hour drive from Adelaide to Thredbo. There’s also that strong possibility the lockdown will be extended further.
The border restrictions each state places on visitors and returning residents make planning an interstate holiday very difficult. While they are designed to keep residents safe, there is little cohesion or trust between the states.
One issue in particular is the testing requirements. Visitors to the Victorian Alpine resorts are required to have a negative COVID test result within 72 hours prior to their arrival. As visitors to Victoria, we would be required to get tested anyway. This was fine and we were prepared to run out to get tested at our local testing site two days before we headed to the slopes, until we realised that only Victorian tests would be accepted. This seems unreasonable.
The fact that we can’t show a negative test result from SA Health (or, for that matter, proof that we are both fully vaccinated) to be allowed entry means we have to add at least a day or two onto the trip to make it feasible. A long-weekend to the snow (or merely interstate) is no longer a realistic option.
Reasonable cancellation fees and flexibility with regards to holiday bookings make the idea of planning an interstate trip more palatable. They are also essential at this point in time. I will not currently book a holiday with a supplier has a restrictive cancellation policy. Nor do I know anyone who will.
As a country, we need more flexibility around pre-holiday testing to make trips more realistic. States should recognise test results from the other states. And, there needs to start being more flexibility and fewer mobility restrictions on people who can show they are fully vaccinated. Both of these things will support the local tourism operators as a result, so it makes economic sense too.
In the meantime, I am still hopeful of getting to the snow this year. I am going to pack a ‘go bag’ for my ski trip so that we can jump in the car at a moments notice.
And keep my fingers crossed.