Far South Coast tour operators, hospitality providers, grapple with question of providing services to unvaccinated

Kiah Wilderness Tours work in close proximity to their guests and are erring on the side of caution in regards to the vaccination status of potential customers. Photo supplied.
Kiah Wilderness Tours work in close proximity to their guests and are erring on the side of caution in regards to the vaccination status of potential customers. Photo supplied.

Vaccination status is proving to be a divisive issue for many people.

The NSW rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has sped up substantially in recent weeks, with 63.8 per cent of residents over the age of 16 across the state now having received at least one shot.

With consistent promises of extra "freedoms" for the vaccinated and talk of opening up lower risk areas to movement once again, many businesses are aware they will have to make choices regarding their own policies and practices, to mitigate risk of the spread of coronavirus through their activities.

Jenny Robb, owner of kayaking and camping business Kiah Wilderness Tours, said she and her partner Arthur have been discussing the matter and she was aware they were not the only local business considering the tricky issue.

Jenny put out a poll via her Instagram account, asking her followers, "Should we only accept people who have been fully vaccinated?"

"We needed guidance from the community following our business," Jenny said.

"It was a pretty solid response, about 63 per cent said we should only allow vaccinated guests.

"We are erring that way. For the greater good I think we will probably say people have to be immunised."

Kiah Wilderness Tours only takes out small groups, but Jenny said ensuring the safety of their visitors, fitting them with life vests and assisting them in and out of the kayaks, required getting in pretty close proximity.

"We are thinking of the bigger picture. By exposing ourselves we expose our community, and that's what we don't want to do," Jenny said.

"None of us are in a great financial position now, so nobody wants to turn the business away.

"But the big thing is that it's not just about us. This community has been through too much.

"It's their choice if they want to come on a kayak tour with us, but for our safety and that of the community we feel we need to minimise risk and only offer tours to those who are 'double jabbed'."

This issue is particularly pertinent given the astronomical economic hit the Far South Coast region has taken, from the Black Summer fires, to multiple floods and now ongoing restrictions related to the pandemic.

"The mental impact of the whole thing has been massive. Hopefully we can see a light at the end of the tunnel if we have from December onwards, we might be able to bounce back," Jenny said.

"Businesses have been thinking of ways to adapt, if we start slow again and see how it rolls out, we might be okay.

"We only hope that by the time lockdowns lift and we can run tours again, anyone who wants to be vaccinated, is vaccinated."

Gail Ward of Cocora Cottage B&B said people making inquiries for future bookings have already been declaring unprompted that they are vaccinated. Photo: Leah Szanto

Gail Ward of Cocora Cottage B&B said people making inquiries for future bookings have already been declaring unprompted that they are vaccinated. Photo: Leah Szanto

Gail Ward runs Cocora Cottage B&B in Eden, welcoming guests into her home.

"We have to make sure we are safe ourselves. It is definitely likely to be our preferred option," she said.

"It's not like a motel, we are serving food and in close contact, they are in our physical space, and we know the Delta strain is in the air.

"I think it's the way we have to go to open up everything again - it's too easy to bring down a whole community," Gail said.

"Health services here are under-resourced and there a many in the community who are immune compromised.

"That's why they pulled the cruise ships out early in 2020," she said.

"People making inquiries for future bookings have already been telling me, without me asking, that they are vaccinated.

"In most cases we don't even have to ask, as they know there is going to be an expectation."

Read also: