SUMMER 23/24

We asked some of the leading business and community leaders on the Central Coast how they have approached the turbulence of COVID-19, the ‘new normal’ and even the ‘next normal’.


Right now, there’s a lot of duck-like activity on the Central Coast. Although many venues and business have been closed, below the surface there’s been a lot of paddling going on (and not all of it upstream).

Overall, organisations that have kept the connection with their customers and their community are finding they’re best placed to maintain their momentum and best positioned to do more than just survive the turbulence. Those that lagged behind in technology, connectivity and cyber-security were often among the hardest hit.
Peter Drucker, the father of ‘management thinking’ famously said, ‘The greatest danger in times of turbulence, is not the turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday’s logic.

Gary Murphy, CEO, Central Coast Council
Partnerships, shared knowledge and connecting are all important for the community and business recovery of the coast. Our resilience has been tested, and it has reinforced for me that giving people empowerment to work differently with a high level of creativity and autonomy produces great problem solving, positive community outcomes, plus personal fulfillment. I believe one of the key short-term opportunities for the coast is to not return to the commuter drain and continue alternative workplace arrangements that keep workers on the coast and, as restrictions ease, this will assist to rebuild thriving town centres. In the long term, we have to skill-up our young people and residential workforce to respond to the gaps in current and emerging employment sectors.

Carolyn Childs, CEO, MyTravelResearch
During the last recession, 9 percent of 4,700 companies came out in better shape. They were ruthless about cutting costs, but what they didn’t cut was even more important. Brand presence was shown to be of utmost importance with successful brands more resilient in difficult times. And although it may seem contrary to intuition, companies who grew their marketing during the recession were the ones who grew their businesses. In order to survive, you need to be flexible enough to adapt. In order to grow and thrive, you need to be agile.
In our self-isolation, we’ve been dreaming of being elsewhere. With long haul travel the slowest to recover, an hour and a half down the motorway from Sydney makes the Central Coast one of the first regions to potentially bounce back. Make sure your business is in their mindset. I believe the Central Coast is poised to be one of the gainers long term! Visit MyTravelResearch.

David Fellows, Chairman, Destination NSW Sydney Surrounds North
The tenacity, entrepreneurial skills and willingness of tourism operations throughout Destination Sydney Surrounds North to collaborate to provide new and interesting experiences for visitors to enjoy from the mountains through the valleys to the sea, coupled with our proximity to Sydney, means that our region is well placed to accommodate visitor demand once COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased.
Many tourism related businesses have re-focused to play an important role offering innovative goods and services to local community members.
The tourism and hospitality industries are accustomed to facing challenges and we — along with our industry partners — are also developing the strategies and plans which will underpin the turbo-charging of the visitor economy recovery once circumstances permit.

Jill Seckold, MD, The Springs
What an extraordinary year 2020 has been for us all with devastating bushfires followed by floods and then COVID-19 hit us with breakneck speed.
The Springs restaurant and weddings were shut down with virtually no warning. I had to deal with a nightmare jigsaw puzzle of moving hundreds of weddings. After the initial shock and the reality that had overwhelmed me, I knew my focus had to quickly change to the survival of my business. Luckily it became possible to reopen Springs golf, which turned out to be my lifeline. I am looking forward to reopening the restaurant and weddings at The Springs, even if it may look a little different for a while.
COVID-19 created a mind space for us all to work out how to survive, and here on the Central Coast, my inspiration has been the strong community support and the knowledge that we have the determination to come back to create a safe and nurturing escape for those ready to return to travel.  We can all come back reinvented and inspired for the future.

Barton Lawler, MD Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures
We’ve been in business for over 50 years and during that time we’ve navigated through many challenges, though it will certainly take some time to bounce back this time around. During our hibernation period we recently offered some of our horses for lease. The response was truly incredible as people were eager to continue horse riding for exercise and to keep their spirits high. 
Spending time outdoors amongst nature with friends and family is something we’d all taken for granted. Our hope going forward is that we all make this a greater priority.
In spite of the immense challenges, I do see an opportunity as people discover (or re-discover) destinations closer to home. There’s no shortage of fantastic offerings here on the Central Coast with our incredible natural beauty, many attractions and events and a burgeoning food and wine scene. I do hope our industry can come together to harness this opportunity. 
We look forward to welcoming visitors, both old and new, to the Central Coast.

James Brown, MD, Pearls of Australia, Broken Bay Pearl Farm
The pearling world has historically experienced booms and busts and, while the onset of COVID-19 has presented some of our greatest challenges, it also delivered invaluable learnings and opportunities.
Pearl shell on our pearl farms requires constant care so our team has been redeployed into assisting on the pearl farm, as well as building virtual tour experiences including a weekly pearl harvest online, and continuing to prepare our recently opened Pearl Farm HQ, The Shellar Door, for the public.
Nestled among a 150-year old rock oyster industry, in an area steeped in history and majestic natural beauty, we see the Central Coast and Hawkesbury region as being perfectly poised to share with the world the remarkably unique experiences and great treasure that lies on Sydney’s doorstep. We’ve taken the time to rethink how we deliver our experience and extend our private, small-group pearl farm and pearl grading tours.

Nicolas Dansin, MD, TreeTops
We recognised that the needs of our customers will have become more health-centred. We decided on implementing additional measures, such as reducing site capacity, to further ease some of those concerns. However, we wanted to ensure we were actually addressing this need, so we sent out a survey to gauge if our added measures would instil confidence for their return. While the results help steer us in the right direction, it provides transparency to our customers on what we are doing to make their experience just as enjoyable, which helps them get back into nature quickly and safely.

Tim Faulkner, Director, Australian Reptile Park
What makes the Reptile Park successful is that we provide a family-friendly, immersive, and very personal experience. So when COVID-19 hit and we had to close the Park, that’s what we wanted to do online.
Kids were at home, so we reached out to them — at home, in schools, in day care. The response was really amazing and we found that when we were communicating with the kids, we were also communicating with parents and grandparents. We did Animal Tales with Tim Faulkner. We had good discussions that were educational and interesting, and curriculum based. We looked at the environment, ecology, diet, camouflage, reproduction, quirky facts.

I love all this, but it didn’t come naturally to me. I just pursued it. And I can’t emphasise enough the importance of doing what you love, personally and professionally.
With the Park re-opening we’ve put in place entry and exit protocols, people management, the café precinct, traffic around the Park. Indoor tours will be very small and we want visitors to have the best experience ever. You’ll still be able to meet and greet any of the hand-reared animals. 
Although COVID-19 was a terrible circumstance, we used it as a tremendous experience that ended up reaching millions of people online. It worked both ways: for us and for them.


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