In November 2019 Cockington Green Gardens celebrated 40 years of operation. In that time they had never experienced a shutdown, staying open almost every day of the year. Then 2020 arrived, with two forced closures in a short space of time. The first due to the bushfires, and the second the Coronavirus pandemic.
Mark Sarah is general manager of Cockington Green Gardens. As a member of the small family business, he has been working at the Gardens his whole professional life. It has not been an easy period for the business, “The light at the end of the tunnel has been so dim until recently,” he said.
But Marks overall attitude has been to keep on keeping on. The business has utilised the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payments to retain all their staff and has been busy preserving the site for when customers return. “We’re still here, we are maintaining our gardens, our quality is going to be as good as ever, and we’re missing everyone.”
Although he has been able to focus on the positives, Mark found navigating the shutdown regulations challenging at times, which led him to reach out to other privately-owned attractions in Canberra. This dialogue transformed into a new initiative called 4Canberra. A new alliance of businesses consisting of the Cockington Green Gardens, The National Zoo and Aquarium, Go Boat Canberra and the National Dinosaur Museum.
Mark explained “The plan is to start off slowly, sharing some social media content between ourselves. We want to influence the Canberra public positively, let them know that we are still here, we are local, and we employ 200 Canberrans between us.”
Staff are eagerly awaiting the announcement of when they can start welcoming guests back into the Gardens. “I will be excited to see customers back and enjoying the site. I’ve worked in tourism all my life, and I miss having that interaction with our customers.”
Despite this year’s significant setbacks, Mark is still is maintaining an incredibly positive attitude and wants to reassure other tourism operators that there will be good times again in the future.
“I do love the industry, and we have been members with the NCAA for a long time. My message to NCAA members is to keep talking to each other and stay positive.”