Luke Hanson of Pinetress Lodge on Lord Howe Island takes five with Great Walks to talk about the resort's plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond.
What has Pinetrees been doing during lockdown?
We've been keeping busy with annual maintenance and gardening jobs. Our big news is that were about to build a new boatshed and deck on the lagoon waterfront. The existing boatshed is about to collapse from foreshore erosion. If anyone doubts the science behind climate change, then they just need to see what a small amount of sea level rise - in combination with unseasonally large storms - has done to our lagoon foreshore. We're at the coalface of the problem - pardon the pun.
Now that people are free to travel again what experiences and events are your offering on Lord Howe?
Lord Howe is still closed until August, and Pinetrees won't open until early October. In a covid-19 world, Lord Howe is kind of ideal. Our World Heritage listing caps the number of island-wide guests to 400 at any one time, and they scatter through two cafes, eight volcanic peaks, 10 sq km of lagoon, 18 surf spots, 20 beaches, 24km of coastline, and 45km of hiking track. In reality, guests will feel like they have the place to themselves.
How will you be dealing with issues like social distancing, hygiene etc to guarantee clients safety?
We've been having circular conversations about how to plan for returning guests. Clearly, we have to change the way we serve food, increase the frequency and depth of cleaning, reduce our interaction with guests (and each other), and manage the flow of people to help ensure social distancing. But how far do you go to compensate for the risk that guests won't wash their hands or keep their distance from each other? Do we need to have hand wash stations every 10m with signage reminding people to wash their hands? Do we need to have perspex barriers between tables at dinner? Do we need to remove all contact between staff and guests? Do we need to remove all of the beautiful coffee table books and unnecessary furnishings from our guest rooms (the kind of things that separate us from a suburban Novotel)? Do we need to undo all of the good work we've done to get rid of packaging, only to wrap every bit of food and cutlery in single-use plastic?
The questions are endless and mind-boggling. If we can assume that people will take some responsibility to wash their hands regularly and keep their distance, then Pinetrees will feel like the high-end adventure experience that guests expect. If we have to protect people from themselves, then it's going to feel a bit sterile and unfriendly. That's the new reality. In practice, we'll probably be somewhere in the middle. The ideal scenario is that guests will feel relaxed, well-hosted, and blissfully unaware of all the extra things we'll be doing to keep them safe.
What would you say to a Great Walks reader who is considering going on a walking tour like yours?
We've all been dealing with the uncertainty, fear, frustration and boredom of covid-19 restrictions, and we're likely to continue on the emotional roller-coaster for months (and maybe years) to come. We've always been true believers that outdoor nature-based adventure holidays - like hiking, swimming, biking, skiing, sailing and more - are the perfect antidote for the stress of modern urban life. We know this because we host hundreds of walkers, swimmers, divers and photographers every year, and we watch them unwind during their stay. We also listen to guests talk about their epiphanies and resolutions while hiking, and we know that they're in-depth and genuine. You don't have to come Lord Howe to experience this - people can go to their local national park for a few days and enjoy the same benefits.
The beauty of the Seven Peaks Walk, with us, is that you get five days of challenging walking by day and great food and service by night (plus a bit of pampering). There's probably never been a better time to treat yourself to this kind of experience, and to give yourself a breather from the covid-19 anxieties.
For more info on Pinetress click here.