Ballarat's key tourist attractions are 'devastated' to miss out on the vital school holiday period after the city was plunged back into lockdown this week.
Sovereign Hill, Kryal Castle and the Ballarat Wildlife Park will all remain closed through this weekend after Ballarat entered a seven-day lockdown on Thursday.
For these businesses, it means missing out on one of their biggest weekends of the year and the chance to rebound from the year's repeated lockdowns.
Sovereign Hill will remain closed until Thursday, September 23, the date planned for Ballarat to leave lockdown.
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Deputy CEO Katrina Nitschke said it was disappointing to miss out on crucial school holiday business.
"While it's disappointing not to be able to open for the school holidays, it's absolutely what we've all got to do as we deal with the pandemic. It's a little disappointing, but it's also absolutely understandable. The health of the community has to come first," she said.
"It's disappointing that we're in this situation, but we're not in this on our own. A lot of people, a lot of businesses, the whole community is going through some pretty tough times.
"It would be lovely to be open for the school holidays, it's obviously a time that really matters to Sovereign Hill, but we'll look forward to the next time that we are able to open and welcome people back to the museum."
Kryal Castle did not open last weekend, instead opting to wait until this weekend and had planned a new program around the real history of medieval times.
General manager Bart Hamilton said having to stay closed for one of its three biggest weekends of the year was heartbreaking for both the business and visitors.
"We spent a decent amount of time and a fair bit of money on marketing and things like that to get ready for the school holidays. We've only opened for one weekend since the last school holidays, so it's basically our first big chunk of open time and to get it pulled out from under us three days before is a devastating blow," he said.
"Particularly with Melbourne being shut down, we put a lot of hope in the fact that this would be the school holidays for regional Victoria to really shine and pick up a lot of business from people that couldn't travel interstate or into Melbourne. To lose that, and if we lose the whole school holidays, which is quite likely, it's definitely going to set us back a fair bit of time in terms of getting back to where we need to be."
Ballarat Wildlife Park managing director Greg Parker said an eighth lockdown would put the business under even more financial pressure. "It was quite important to us financially and also to our animals. The animals definitely miss people coming through, it's part of their daily routine," he said.
"The staff put a lot of effort into enrichment programs during this time, giving them toys and inventive things and food treats speckled around their enclosure that they have to find and playing games with them. It's all good fun and it's something that is really important to the animals' psychological welfare."
Mr Parker said he hoped for the situation to improve in time for greater openings this summer.
"People have been really good and the community's been really supportive and we just hope for everybody that the vaccination numbers grow rapidly and COVID declines," he said. "Especially in the warmer weather, too, and with the level of vaccination we're achieving now, I'm fairly optimistic that there are good times ahead."
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