Sawtell thrives despite COVID-19

Bookings are essential at Sawtell restaurants


EXPERTS are divided about how well the Australian economy is doing, but it is clear that many individuals and many sectors of the Australian population are still suffering economically.

One place that has continued to thrive, despite the ravages of COVID-19, is Sawtell.

Holiday times are especially busy, leading one long-term local to dryly observe that, “During holiday time you can’t have lunch in a café until 4pm.”

The Chairman of the Sawtell Chamber of Commerce, Clive Greenway, feels that most of the Coffs Coast area seems to have been doing well.

He attributes the success of most Sawtell businesses to the village being a ‘one-stop’ destination where people can park and then visit a range of stops.

“It’s still an ‘old school’ village with a range of quality shops and cafes, clubs and the cinema.

“We promote it 365 days a year in places like the Gold Coast, Armidale and Tamworth,” he said.

The promotion appears to work, because it is almost impossible to eat at a Sawtell restaurant without a prior booking.

Well-dressed tourists, who may not be aware of this before they arrive, can be seen wandering the streets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings searching for a table.

Linda Stitt, proprietor of The Spare Room said, “We’ve had a very busy summer, despite COVID, and we have had to turn a lot of people away.”

The hospitality scene in Sawtell is strong enough for two new businesses to recently open, a French-themed café and a tapas bar, and both appear to be extremely well-patronised.

Airbnb lists almost 70 properties in Sawtell, and, along with the Sawtell Hotel and motels providing accommodation, the population swells on weekends and during holiday time.

Added to this, many people who live locally, but outside Sawtell, like to visit.

Before COVID-19 struck, real estate prices in Sawtell were rising rapidly, but, with many people in capital cities realising that they can work from home in a regional area, prices have accelerated further.

Chris Hines, from Unreal Estate told News Of The Area, “The market is booming for sales, not just in Sawtell but in Boambee East, Bonville, Toormina and Coffs Harbour.”

“The issue is a lack of supply, mainly because people are apprehensive about selling because of the uncertainty created by COVID-19”, he said.

Mr. Hines said that real estate data shows that unit prices in Sawtell rose by 30% last year to a median price of $545,000.

Recently, a basic two-storey house near the beach sold for $1.5 million and another, single storey dwelling, 600m from the shops, with a pool, sold for almost $800,000.

Locals are apprehensive that sales such as these might be changing the character of the village, and there are reports of a trend for properties to be listed on Airbnb rather than becoming homes for families.

In the meantime, Sawtell is bustling with visitors day and night and helping keep local businesses prosperous and providing local jobs.


By Andrew VIVIAN

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