Luxury rentals empty as tourists ditch iconic holiday spot
Sydneysiders are cancelling their holiday rental bookings in Noosa due to state border shutdowns, with the $100,000 a week house of a Russian billionaire likely to remain empty over some of the Christmas break.
Nervous Sydneysiders have cancelled around 17 per cent of their Christmas bookings - ranging from beachfront apartments costing $6000 a week to the $24m Domic house at Sunshine Beach, which commands a rental of $100,000 a week - according to Noosa's Niche Luxury Accommodation group.
"Basically we had 80 per cent of our bookings come from Victorian and NSW residents. Of that, 17 per cent of bookings have been cancelled by people living in Greater Sydney," said Sue Willis, managing director of Niche, which typically rents out about 250 holiday homes over Christmas.
Ms Willis said Sydneysiders are nervously awaiting January 8, when the Queensland government will reassess its border closures.
"We are hoping after January 8 we can save those bookings," said Ms Willis, adding that the $100,000 a week Domic House rental owned by Russian billionaire Evgeny Skigin at Sunshine Beach was fully booked until February prior to the border closures. It features a day spa, sauna, ice bath, gymnasium and pool overlooking the ocean.
"But two of those Domic House bookings are from Sydneysiders so they won't be coming," she said. "They can't come."
Niche Accommodation was taking around two calls an hour with cancellations, but Ms Willis said it has filled some of the shortfalls with late bookings from other parts of Australia.
"We are fielding a lot of calls from the rest of NSW, residents outside of Sydney. NSW residents are very nervous about the borders...and the others that are calling are incredibly nervous about coming.
"It could be far worse than the 17 per cent cancellations," said Ms Willis, adding that the average cost of a holiday house booking at this time of year is about $25,000 a week.
"We have about 10 per cent vacancy, normally we are 100 per cent full. We are at 90 per cent."
But it's not just the cancellations that are causing angst among Noosa's holiday house property managers, it is also the fact they can't get people to clean the holiday houses and apartments or restaurant staff.
"We can't get cleaners in town. I saw it coming and recruited a lot of cleaners at $30 an hour at a casual rate, we have trained them, (but) we are all going into the houses and apartments behind them to make sure everything is okay."
"Our property staff are doing the cleaning, spending an hour in each property bringing them up to scratch.
"We are all at a bit of a crisis point," said Ms Willis, adding that some property managers and hotels are holding back holiday rentals and hotel rooms because they can't get cleaning staff.
"We had 13 couples that clean for us, 10 of them won't work for us as they are on JobKeeper payments.
"Restaurants can't get staff, it's the same thing, all of their staff were backpackers who have gone home and the Australians don't want to work. When restrictions were lifted restaurants could go back to normal capacity most of have not done that because they can't get enough staff to serve the tables."
Ms Willis, who has contacted local politicians for help, said Noosa holidaymakers are frustrated because they can't get restaurant bookings. "Those people in town can't get bookings, they are really frustrated, it's a real shame," she said.
"Other operators are holding back properties because they can't clean them."
At Nautilus Resort, in Noosa Parade, owner Denise Platt said she has been rushed with last minute bookings for Christmas, mainly from Brisbane residents. "We got a lot of cancellations from Sydneysiders so there's been a lot of juggling around," she said.
She said Noosa is short of staff because the backpackers have left.
"There's a lot of jobs out there, but not a lot of people to fill the jobs.
"It's as busy as normal," she said.
Noosa businessman Phil Bradford, who owns the Noosa Boathouse, Noosa Ferry Company and the management rights over several properties in Noosa, said there is definitely a lack of backpackers and resident Australian employees not just in Noosa but nationally.
He said Noosa's accommodation sector has definitely struggled to get cleaners.
But local real estate agent Tom Offermann said Noosa apartment sales continue unabated, after recently selling a big beachfront apartment for $7.6m. The deal came on top of other sales through the year for $9m and $14m.
An $8.2m apartment in Noosa's Hastings Park will hit the market on Tuesday as buyer appetite persists.
Mr Offermann said he has had a lot of panicked calls from people who had left Sydney when they first heard the borders might be closing and were seeking alternate accommodation until their booked accommodation became available.
He stressed the lockdown of the NSW border will not have any "net" effect on Noosa, saying that Queenslanders and Victorians will fill the gaps.
"Noosa is always full at Christmas. If there is any effect from the lockdown it will be minimal. Any vacancies will be quickly filled," Mr Offermann said.
He said real estate prices continue to soar.
"In the past year, apartment values have risen by over 20 per cent," he said, adding that the price rise is due to a COVID-19 response, lifestyle decisions brought forward, and the unattractiveness of having money sitting in the bank.
Originally published as Luxury rentals empty, NSW tourists ditch Noosa