Pandemic Survival for a Business without Customers…

Publication – North Eastern Advertiser – 19th August 2020 – by Daisy Baker

This article in our local weekly news publication came about from a Pepper Bush Adventures website-blog post regarding our Covid-19 Response called “Keeping the Campfires Burning” being posted on Facebook. The North Eastern Advertiser saw our post and our ran the story to show that all was not back to normal for all businesses. Pepper Bush Adventures would be the worst hit business in north east Tasmania but we are still operational.

SCOTTSDALE-BASED wilderness and wildlife tour business Pepper Bush Adventures has been left in the lurch, suffering significant profit losses due to COVID-19 with the majority of their customers unable to visit the region.

Their customer base is 99 per cent international visitors, with many travelling from Europe, the UK and the US.

Local owners Janine and Craig ‘Bushie’ Williams said they have a growing list of cancellation, with zero sales between April and August, compared with $80,000 for the same period last year.

While their customer-base virtually died overnight, their insurances, licences, permits, vehicle services and transport accreditations continue to roll in.

Mr Williams said over the last 23 years they’ve built up the business, offering a range of tours and driving international dollars back into the local economy so their sales loss has a flow on effect for the region.

“We have invested a lot of time and money into getting the business up to an international standard overall and that includes product and skilled guiding,” Mr Williams said.

During the last few months the team has been keeping busy with running repairs and tidying up, while also keeping up visits to the wildlife which are a star attraction on their tours.

“The wildlife live and feed naturally in the wild but they are used to interacting with people so it’s important we keep that up so that in six to twelve months when we can reopen they are still comfortable with human presence, Mrs Williams said.

“It’s taken us years to achieve that. We’re visiting them two to three times a week so the animals have at least some human interaction and we can continue to provide a unique wildlife experience down the track,” Mr Williams said.

Pepper Bush Adventures currently has $120,000 worth of bookings for the 2021/22 season, some of which were for this year but have been pushed back.

Mrs Williams said they remain hopeful but are unsure what the future of the business will be. “If you don’t have hope you don’t have anything but in reality, we have no idea,” she said. All we know is that people are keen to travel and once they can, it’s going to go gangbusters.

“It’s very much a rollercoaster, you have very hopeful thoughts, thinking you’ve got something good coming out of it then you’re thinking how long it’s going to take and wondering if we going to come out of it. We just need to sit back and wait.”

While Pepper Bush Adventures has had a limited number of enquiries from locals about wine tours, they have been unable to offer them due to vineyards not reopening at full capacity yet.

With Premier Peter Gutwein’s announcement yesterday that Tasmania’s borders will remain shut until at least December 1, there appears to be little hope in sight for Pepper Bush.