Business is booming in Airlie Beach

(from left) Complete Business Soltuions mentor Petina Tieman, Office of Small Business's Chris Heron, Outside-In Strategic mentor Don McKenzie and Beach Book Boutique owners BJ and Robert Harris during a mentoring session last month.
(from left) Complete Business Soltuions mentor Petina Tieman, Office of Small Business's Chris Heron, Outside-In Strategic mentor Don McKenzie and Beach Book Boutique owners BJ and Robert Harris during a mentoring session last month. Jessica Lamb

BUSINESS is booming in Airlie Beach after the re-opening of the lagoon, with a little help from state government prop-ups.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie took a toll on local business with many forced to close their doors and limit their opening hours from infrastructure damage and lack of foot traffic.

New Zealand Natural ice-cream owner Megan Stenning said initially her shop in Airlie's main street was closed for 16 days post cyclone with some trade generated from locals exploring the region to see Debbie's aftermath.

"But after the first few weeks, with the lagoon shut it was as bad as when the main street was getting re-done,” she said.

"I've spoken to people from Cannonvale who hadn't travelled over the hill since the cyclone because there was nothing here for them.

"People think it's tourists that run Airlie but it's locals, we get a lot of business from Whitsunday locals day-tripping to the lagoon who then grab an ice cream with the family afterwards.

"It's a whole different story now with the lagoon open and cruise ships are coming in.

"I was forced to cut staff hours and it's been very difficult, if it wasn't for the government grant we would be screwed.

"It helped us pay bills that normal revenue would be paying and I certainly wouldn't be sitting here today without it.”

Along with business grants, 12 local businesses benefited from a free business mentoring session provided by the state government last month.

Small Business Minister Leeanne Enoch said staff worked in the region with experts from the government's Mentoring for Growth program to provide support and guidance to small businesses affected by Cyclone Debbie.

Ms Enoch said the support services included integrated mentoring and counselling, and working through possible applications for the second round of the government's dedicated recovery grants.

"Businesses from Bowen, Proserpine and Airlie Beach were able to access this valuable support service and received guidance from experts on topics such as building resilience, insurance issues, building leases, effective marketing, business sustainability and growth,” she said.

Owner of Airllywood (another Airlie Beach main street store) Mary-Anne Sullivan said the business mentoring session helped her decide how to utilise her recovery grant to further her business.

"They helped me by looking at online marketing ideas,” she said.

"I think businesses would benefit from more locals wandering back through town because there are more than just booking agents in the main street.

"But business is picking up and the Lagoon opening has helped a lot with that.”

A sentiment which is seconded by BJ Harris who owns Beach Book Boutique and also attended a mentoring session.

"The opening has breathed life back into the town,” she said.

"It's fabulous, it has just made a massive difference and to the town vibe in general.

"I look outside and there are people throwing around footballs again and families laughing.

"It really is a relief, it has given me my confidence back after a bad season.

"Takes the stress away that we are going to survive and we can get through it and we are doing the right thing by staying open.

"I couldn't sleep with excitement the other night which is a big difference to what normally keeps me awake.

"I'm focusing on buying things now, whereas I haven't ordered anything in in months.”

Leeanne Enoch said an extra information session was held in Airlie Beach last month to update businesses regarding the support services available and how to access them.

"This was particularly helpful for those that had not had an opportunity to have a one-on-one mentoring session during the day,” she said.

"A further 17 businesses attended this successful evening event.

"Affected businesses unable to attend these one on one sessions and the information evening are being offered Skype mentoring from our experienced business mentors, at a time that suits them.”

Topics:  airlie beach business cyclone debbie lagoon office of small business

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