OWNERS of a popular on-farm experience tourism attraction known for capturing the echoes of Mount Gambier’s pioneering past predict they have lost almost half their annual business income in just six weeks due to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
Involuntarily closing their gates over a month ago due to tightening coronavirus restrictions, Echo Farm proprietors Linda and Bruce Hay said they remained in the dark as to when they could re-open to the public.
Ms Hay said the Easter school holiday period was a peak time for the Tollner Road property, generating around 25pc of the business’ annual income while school excursions in the first half of the year accounted for another 20pc.
“It is nearly half of our income from the farm we have lost in a matter of weeks,” Ms Hay said yesterday while caring for the diverse range of animals on-site.
“It is very much a seasonal business and we do not see many visitors when it is cold and wet.
“Normally we shut during the middle of the year because the weather is miserable, so it will be interesting to see what happens.”
Despite the challenges, the Hays said the farm was not their main source of income.
“Our jobs usually make it hard for us to run the farm, but they are what has allowed us to survive during this time,” Ms Hay said.
“What was a hurdle for us has actually helped tremendously as we now have an income.”
Ms Hay said the tourist and school attraction was on hold until restrictions were lifted.
“We are considered a non-essential business which falls in the recreation and amusement sector so we have had to close to the public,” she said.
“Interstate and international travel is off the cards for everyone for a while which I think might be an issue for us once we are operating again. A lot of our visitors come from Melbourne.”
Mr Hay said the operation would be reliant on Limestone Coast residents for support once open to the public again.
Taking ownership of the business over two years ago, Ms Hay said Echo Farm had grown to be a well-established tourist attraction in the region.
“No one knew what we were or who we were when we took over,” she said.
“The site was established for around 10 years before we bought it, but it was purely a museum, was only open to bus groups and no one knew anything about it.
“We have built up the patronage and knowledge and when everything is back to normal, we will re-launch ourselves so everyone knows we are open.”
Ms Hay said hygiene and social distancing measures were part of day-to-day operations at the property even before COVID-19 and revealed Echo Farm had exciting plans in store for when the business re-opened.