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It’s a small(er) world

Keeping it local is key to economic recovery and stronger communities.

ince a lot of us started working from home, the ebbs and flows of day-to-day life have changed. Daily commutes were replaced with a trip to the shops and perhaps a sanctioned, once-a-day exercise outing. Our world got smaller. But for some, a smaller world means big business.

Early this year, a café opened up a few blocks away from where I live. As an unashamed coffee snob, I was delighted to be able to get a caffeine fix on my side of the train tracks.

Then, COVID hit. Cafes, bars, and restaurants were all shut down.

They transitioned to a takeaway immediately. Scared I was going to lose my happy place as quickly as it had come, I took it as my personal responsibility to keep these guys in business. And I wasn’t alone. With people stuck at home, any opportunity to get out of the house feels like a luxury. Business is booming.

Nationally, there’s been a similar enthusiasm for going local.



Buy them some time

In the aftermath of the bushfires, certain regions were already crying out for Australians to back their brands.

Buy From the Bush and Empty Esky were campaigns that supported going to bushfire-affected areas and spending big.

Now we’re thinking about what else we can do for local business, country and city alike. And the buy local initiatives are gaining traction. At the end of May, Nielsen data suggested that major retailers had lost some of their share to their locally owned counterparts — butchers, bakeries, even the occasional candlestick maker.

During a disaster, whether it’s a bushfire or a global pandemic, it feels urgent to support the people, and the businesses, around us. The question is, as we start to come out from the bubble, how much do the ‘Made is Australia’ and ‘Australian Owned’ labels mean to us in the long- term?



Tourist, trapped

Tourism has been hit hard by coronavirus. And while countries like
Japan have announced plans to literally pay people to visit, the situation in Australia looks a little different.

A new poll shows that 35 per cent of Australians are less likely to travel overseas, even if/when borders reopen. And that means a lot of people are looking forward to doing some more exploring in their own backyard.

A quick look at the numbers. Last year, international tourism made up $45.4bn of the tourism dollar, while Australians spent $65bn overseas. If you do the math, some analysts suggest that could even mean a net gain for the country.

As for choosing where we want to go, while some decisions will be made for us — Queensland, for example, is holding firm on border closures for now — attracting visitors means that place brands are going to be more important than ever. To differentiate themselves, regions must tap into what makes them unique.



State of the arts

The arts have been a major casualty of COVID. But there’s also some opportunities shining through the cracks.

As the future of most events are up in the air, Falls Festival — one of the biggest on the festivalgoers’ circuit — has tentatively announced that, for the first time ever, it’s going to feature an all-Aussie lineup. Not only is that great for anyone who misses music and mud, it’s a lifeline for local artists.

For those who make movies for a living, now’s not a great time, either. But there might be light at the end of the tunnel. The industry has put forward its COVID-Safe Guidelines for Film and TV for getting the industry up and running again.

Some hope the low amount of virus cases in Australia means we can lure big, international productions with the promise of a safe filming environment. As someone who remembers the good old days, when we provided the backdrop for movies like The Matrix, Moulin Rouge!, and easily the best Mission: Impossible (fight me), it’s a thrilling prospect that we might be seeing the dawn of a new, lucrative age for making movies in Australia.



Change is the new constant

I was having a chat to the coffee shop guys the other day. As restrictions start to lift, they’re actually not looking forward to putting all the tables back. Sure, they lost a bit of the vibe, but people coming in and out quickly meant they could serve more people.

Of course, things are getting back to how they were. They’ve put two tables back in so far (as much as the space restrictions allow) and customers can sit and have a long chat over a hot beverage. It feels normal, almost. But, like everything else, where we end up might not look the same as before.

Here’s hoping the current, pro-local stance doesn’t change, though.