Virus another blow to fire-ravaged Island

Emily Cosenza
Kangaroo Island's hopes for an Easter tourism boost after bushfires have been dashed by coronavirus

Kangaroo Island remains coronavirus free, but after devastating bushfires this summer, the global pandemic is set to wreak havoc on the island's Easter tourist trade.

The upcoming Easter break was expected to provide tourism operators a much-needed boost after more than 200,000 hectares of the island was devastated by the fires in December and January.

But bookings have dried up once again, with people unable or reluctant to travel, and fears are rising for the region's economic future.

Cafe co-owner Louis Lark said every function that was booked at his Kingscote business had been cancelled, except one for this weekend.

He said Easter was usually the busiest weekend of the year. On average, the cafe would make 200-250 meals per day over the long weekend, but Mr Lark is expecting that number to halve.

"On top of wage costs being two public holidays, it's going to be a big knock," Mr Lark said.

He said the business had difficulties with ordering imported products and had brought in more packaging in preparation to offer only takeaway foods if necessary.

The business also sponsors a chef from India, who returned home for a family emergency and now cannot come back because of travel restrictions.

Jen Boyd, who runs the Parndana Bakery and Groceries store, has managed to keep her shelves full but said the virus could have a "horrific" financial impact coming so soon after the fires.

Michael Johnson, who owns The Rockpool Cafe said bringing forward his usual winter shutdown was a possibility, depending on the impact of the virus.

"If it does have an effect and cut out all travel and people are cancelling then we don't have an income so it's concerning," Mr Johnson said.

"There's huge potential for small businesses to lose out but it all depends how long this goes on for."

Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly said the coronavirus outbreak was another blow to locals after the bushfires.

"We're still trying to recover from the bushfires crisis and all of a sudden we have the coronavirus on top of it," he said.

"If we're not careful, the whole place could fall over economically.

"It's very difficult... but we just have to deal with it like we did with the fires."