GENERATE INTEREST: Marion Carrick is urging support to continue into spring and summer to help compensate tourism operators.
GENERATE INTEREST: Marion Carrick is urging support to continue into spring and summer to help compensate tourism operators.

Full bookings not enough to compensate for closures

BOOKINGS may be rolling in from those eager to escape the confines of the city, but Southern Downs tourism operators believe it will take more than country charm to revive a quarter worth of lost yearly income following closures.

As of June 12, recreational travel could be back on the cards for Queenslanders, and with its cosy climate and isolation, the Southern Downs is being tipped as a major contender for visitors.

At Alure Stanthorpe, owner Marion Carrick said weekend availability had been filled almost to August in anticipation of an interstate relaxation on travel.

“It’s been genuinely fantastic, heartwarming and a little crazy to deal with bookings,” she said.

“The challenge now for tourism is that it doesn’t really offset the previous three months that will be lost.

“There is a buzz around the region and we’re happy and grateful that winter bookings are looking fabulous, but tempering that, as far as winter is concerned, we’ll only have half a normal winter.”

With July capacity last year filling in at 94 per-cent, there wasn’t a lot of space in the busy winter period to compensate for the financial loss of closures, said Ms Carrick, leaving her to look further ahead.

“The hope is not only for an excellent winter, which is looking promising, but what we need to happen is to keep generating interest through spring and summer which is our quiet period.”

But at R on the Downs Rural Retreat owners Doug and Liz Phillips believed there was time yet to salvage our winter season, even without major events such as Jumpers and Jazz going forward.

“Returning guests in the accommodation business is paramount,” Mr Phillips said.

“New guests are the icing on the cake of course but returning guest know the terrific area we have, not just for events but everything that surrounds the event itself.

“You can spend 24/7 at accommodation places like ours, and use events just as an adjunct.”

The duo also hoped a new-found appreciation for the great outdoors would bolster the uniqueness of many picturesque accommodation destinations like theirs.

“One positive side from it is that people have been guilty of forgetting own backyard, but if you look at Queensland and Australia, we have anything and everything the world could offer,” Mr Phillips said.

“From hiking to canoeing, fishing or even a stroll for fresh air — the Southern Downs has it all.”

Backing onto Swanfels, where last year bushfires lit up their sky nightly and raged dangerously close, no one knew the importance of a swift recovery or of remaining positive more than Mr Philips.

“We’re only very small B&B and don’t have any diversified income so therefore we have to be patient,” he said.

“We just have to keep a perspective on finances, rearrange our goals, and remain hopeful we can open back up on June 12.”

The news come as Tourism Minister Kate Jones announced a $6 million recovery package for tourism earlier last week and Southern Downs Regional Council vows to waive rental accommodation license fees and caravan park permit fees for 2020/21 period.

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