Waves of holiday-makers to flock to Coast in droves
Tourism operators - from Caloundra to Rainbow Beach - have nearly reached capacity for school holidays despite missing out on some interstate and international travellers, according to the region's peak tourism body.
Visit Sunshine Coast says the region's major tourism areas, Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Coolum, Noosa and Rainbow Beach only had limited availability across hotel and apartment accommodation for the upcoming break.
Following the industry's devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns, the influx of holiday-makers was viewed as a timely boost.
Craig Davidson, interim chief executive of Visit Sunshine Coast, said local operators were reporting close to capacity bookings across the region.
Mr Davidson said the upcoming September and October holiday season was looking positive despite not benefiting from the "longer stayers" from interstate and international markets.
"What we did from when it was very clear that our peak interstate markets of NSW and Victoria weren't going to be available till at least later in the year was to direct our marketing efforts to the drive market, which has always been our traditional strength," Mr Davidson said.
"Since June up to 90 per cent of Sunshine Coast visitors have come from a 300km drive radius.
"Independent sources such as booking.com and Wotif have shown consistently that Coast destinations such as Maroochydore, Noosa, Maleny and Rainbow Beach have performed outstanding in destination searches over the past few months.
"We are also getting good visitor numbers from the direct services from Cairns and we are expecting strong visitation from South Australia as a result of the resumption of Adelaide direct services, but our key market is southeast Queensland, and that's where travellers who may have flown overseas or gone to Byron have transferred to our beaches or our hinterland."
Graham Ellison from Mary Valley Adventure Trails said they have been busier than ever since restrictions lifted in June.
He said that the "great outdoors" was a big attraction, with people wanting to jump on a horse and ride through the rainforest.
Visit Sunshine Coast has also recorded about four times the amount of website traffic in the lead-up to the school holidays compared to the same time frame as 2019.
The tourism body believes this stems from the huge exposure across Australia thanks to the region's principal role in national sporting competitions including AFL, NRL and the Netball Super League.
The volume of expected arrivals has prompted a warning from a leading health expert who had concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Ian Norton, a Noosa-based physician and emergency health expert for the World Health Organisation, told the Sunshine Coast Daily last month that the school holidays would be closely watched by authorities.
However, days out from the start of school holidays, Dr Norton said it was not the same threat as earlier predictions but he did urge caution regarding large gatherings.
"We are doing really well. But we have to remain careful and cautious," Dr Norton said.
"The Sunshine Coast has a luxury of big, open spaces, it's much safer than big cities.
"But the outdoor stuff away from crowds is the safest way to go."