Port Stephens and Hunter Valley vineyards tourism operators say the coronavirus is costing them millions of dollars as the federal government extends its China travel ban into a third week.
Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association director Phil Hele said Chinese visitors had disappeared from the vineyards, compounding a $42 million economic hit from bushfires and a $30 million loss due to smoke-tainted grapes.
Destination Port Stephens chief executive Eileen Gilliland said the coastal holiday mecca had missed out on about 4000 group tour participants since the virus crisis began.
Nelson Bay cruise company Moonshadow-TQC has been hit hard because 60 per cent of its passengers are from overseas.
The firm's business development manager, Mel Turner, said Port Stephens had also suffered the "double blow" of bushfires then coronavirus, leaving a "huge impact on our bottom line".
"We have had 5034 passengers cancel as a direct result of coronavirus," Ms Turner said.
"This includes a large incentive group from China totalling 2770 passengers that were due to be with us in February.
"This group cancellation also impacted a local sand-boarding and 4WD company and Murray's Brewery.
"This is an unprecedented event, and people who think they may not be directly impacted have the potential to be affected down the track."
We're not seeing any business at all coming from that part of the market, and they're not talking about coming back until October now.Phil Hele
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said on Friday that the $711 million-a-week Chinese tourism market had come to a "dead stop".
The chamber urged the government to assess the threat posed by different regions in China.
"Tourism and trade would greatly benefit from even a partial lifting of the ban from provinces in China that present a much lower risk to Australians," the chamber's tourism executive chair, John Hart, said.
The ban was due to expire this weekend, but the government has extended it until February 22.
Mr Hele said his family business, Hunter Valley Resort, had lost $30,000 in cancelled day-tour bookings in the past two weeks. He knew of another business which had lost more than $300,000.
"It really is very serious what's happened with this virus," he said.
"This is the traditional Chinese new year, which is the time when you will see lots and lots of Chinese coming out to Australia.
"We're not seeing any business at all coming from that part of the market, and they're not talking about coming back until October now."
He urged residents and businesses in Newcastle and the Central Coast to direct their spending into the vineyards and Port Stephens.
"Come up and see us. Just come out for the weekend, buy a couple of glasses of wine ... don't forget about your friends in your backyard. Bring up an empty esky. Take back a full one."
He said a HVWTA survey of businesses in the Cessnock and Singleton local government areas in mid-January, before the travel ban started, had found takings were down $42 million since November due to the bushfires.
"You've got the drought, you've got the bushfires, you've got the smoke taint and now we've got this virus which is affecting the whole world.
"I've been on the board a long time. I've never seen it the way it is at the moment."
He said international visitors accounted for about 20 per cent of the vineyards' tourism revenue, but "this virus has just shattered people's confidence to travel".
"When you think about those dollars revolving around an economy, it's vitally important," he said.
Ms Gilliland said Port Stephens was a popular destination for Chinese visitors, who provided "consistent business midweek".
"Operators are concerned moving forward and are not sure what's going to happen in the near future," she said.
Ms Turner said the impact of coronavirus cancellations went far beyond tourism.
"We use a local butcher, local bakery, a local laundromat, packaging supplies, three Hunter Valley wineries, just to name a few. We also employ 70 team and crew members, all locals."
Alloggio owner Will Creedon said he had seen an "immediate effect" of visitors from China and adjoining countries cancelling or postponing trips, including parents or friends of students.
"Depending on category, it's between 18 and 45 per cent [down] for future bookings," he said.
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