Queensland tourism sector booming as holidaymakers hit the road to explore own backyard

October 1st, 2020 | | Tourism

Queenslanders have heeded the call to explore their own backyard with some tourist destinations reporting a 200 per cent increase in demand, while others are the busiest they have been in decades.

Key points:

  • Some tourist destinations in Queensland are reporting a 200 per cent increase in demand these school holidays
  • Queenslanders are discovering their own backyard, travelling to regional and remote areas across the state
  • The Queensland Tourism Industry Council says it is a positive sign after millions of dollars were lost at the start of the pandemic

It is a welcome silver lining for the Queensland tourism sector, which was bleeding tens of millions of dollars a month when the coronavirus pandemic began. 

“If there is one good thing about this current crisis, it is that Queenslanders are discovering more of their own state,” Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gwschwind said.

“We had booking interest in some of those places increase by 200 per cent or even more.

“Destinations like the Fraser Coast, Hervey Bay, further north to the Whitsundays have incredible increases to inquiries for accommodation.

“But also the in-between places like Gladstone, Rockhampton, the Central Highlands. All of those places are suddenly discovered as the gems that they are.”

Island operators hope visitor boom heralds new era

On Great Keppel Island, off the Capricorn Coast, visitor numbers are booming.

But the crisp white sand and clear blue water had not always been enough to attract tourists.

People swim in clear blue water surrounded by a white sand beach.
Great Keppel Island visitor numbers dropped off when the major resort closed more than 10 years ago.(ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

The closure of the island’s major resort more than a decade ago dramatically reduced visitor numbers and remaining businesses struggled to stay afloat.

“People talk about the ups and downs of tourism and Keppel’s only had four downs really. There have been no ups,” accommodation operator Geoff Mercer said.

Mr Mercer has worked on Great Keppel Island for four decades and watched visitor numbers decline.

A man with grey hair and a moustache stands behind a counter where snorkels and flippers are sold.
Geoff Mercer has worked as an accommodation provider for about 40 years on Great Keppel and says things are finally looking up. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

There are plans in place for a new development on Great Keppel Island with Sunshine Coast-based developer Altum Property Group in the process of buying the lease to the island.

Local businesses exhausted by the ‘resort saga’ are now hopeful of a new era with solid bookings through to November.

“It’s the best we’ve seen … since the closure of the resort,” Mr Mercer said.

“It’ll be wonderful for Keppel to be known again.”

A crowd of people walk down a ramp on a ferry to a beach.
Some tourism operators on Great Keppel Island are reporting the best season in more than a decade.(ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

From bushfires to ‘population explosion’

In the Wide Bay, tourism operators say “Christmas has come early” with consistent bookings for the two months prior to school holidays and the two months after.

Less than a year ago, the coastal community of Woodgate, near Bundaberg, was cut off by bushfires and for the first half of 2020 had no visitors due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

But in June, everything changed.

“We’ve had an explosion of population,” Visit Woodgate Beach president Michelle Cocking said.

A woman stands in front some trees and smiles at the camera.
Visit Woodgate Beach president Michelle Cocking says Christmas has come early with rentals booked out for the holidays.(ABC Wide Bay: Nicole Hegarty)

Ms Cocking says the region has welcomed a significant number of first-time visitors and holiday rentals are booked out for these school holidays and next.

“We’ve had comments from locals saying: ‘Gee, it must be Christmas in July, and then August, and then September as well’,” she said.

“They’re extremely excited at the moment with the way people are supporting local and small businesses.”

A sandy beach meets blue ocean and a blue sky above it.
Woodgate’s 16km of quiet sandy beach is a drawcard for tourists. (ABC Wide Bay: Nicole Hegarty)

Holidaying ‘safely’

Further south on the Sunshine Coast caravan parks are overflowing.

Angus Booker owns two parks: one at Caloundra and another at Maroochydore.

“We’re seeing good record numbers of people coming in from Brisbane and families here on the coast enjoying themselves,” Mr Booker said.

“I think people are starting to get confidence now as things may be not returning to normal, but people are confident they can holiday safely.”

Mr Booker says he is building dozens of new camp sites to cope with the influx.

“We take huge amounts of enquiries and unfortunately we have to disappoint a lot of people with the limited space we’ve got,” he said.

“With these new sites, there will be even more families who will be able to come and enjoy the park.”

ED: Great news for certain tourism sectors. How about hostel accommodation and tour operators?

Have your say and let us know how things really are.

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

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