Rainbow steps into the future

Tourists on Rainbow Beach.
Tourists on Rainbow Beach. Renee Pilcher

RAINBOW Beach businesses want big government out of the way so their town can grow naturally into its new role as a regional tourism leader.

The town's Commerce and Tourism Association president, Scott Elms, yesterday described "turmoil" in a collapsing Hervey Bay tourism sector as a sign that visitors were making a legitimate and informed choice to visit Rainbow Beach instead.

This was natural business competition, he said.

He warned against government interference, in the face of a recent promise made in Hervey Bay by Premier Campbell Newman.

Mr Newman promised help for embattled sections of the tourist industry across Queensland.

But Mr Elms said there was a risk that help for Hervey Bay would disadvantage Rainbow Beach.

"They would be robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said.

Mr Elms said Rainbow had suffered enough already from government domination of its economy and land use.

Hervey Bay had grown, not because it was superior, but because it had freehold land and the government had not stopped it.

Hervey Bay was now losing the battle because tourists were choosing Rainbow instead.

It was a choice they were entitled to make. "You can't force them to holiday at Hervey Bay. We have beaches, national park bushwalking and faster access to Fraser Island.

"We are a natural tourism leader and we are the real gateway to Fraser.

"Hervey Bay needs to accept that, apart from whale watching season, it is not a tourist destination, it's a retirement village," he said.

The departure of one tour operator from Hervey Bay led to a domino effect this week, with a major backpackers and several other businesses closing in Hervey Bay as a result.

THE Mary Valley is not the only part of the Gympie region to be crippled by government interference, according to Rainbow Beach Commerce and Tourism Association president Scott Elms.

But somehow the Beach was surviving times which set off a string of business collapses in Hervey Bay.

"Things are tight in Rainbow, but so far we've avoided the significant contraction of business which has occurred in other tourism centres, including Cairns, Hervey Bay and Airlie Beach."

The Fraser Coast Chronicle yesterday reported the mass departure of big backpacking operators from Hervey Bay.

The contagious closures crippling the tourism industry are not only hurting the high end of town but punishing smaller operators who rely on backpackers to boost trade, the Chronicle reported.

"Seven higher-profile operators have left the region accompanied by three other providers - including Next Backpackers which closed on Saturday taking 100 hostel beds from the Fraser Coast," the paper reported.

That closure caused "a ripple through the ranks of tour service providers and agents," fording the Hervey Bay closure of businesses Peter Pans, Bay 4x4 and Tribal Travel.

Mango Eco Tourist Hostel owner Phil Rogers said while visitor numbers had contracted in the region, his operation was still trading profitably.

He said the more appealing destination to international backpackers appeared to be Rainbow Beach - which had seen growth while Hervey Bay's industry had declined.

Conspiracy theories abound to explain Rainbow's sudden good fortune, but Mr Elms said it was about time after years of hard times for the seaside township.

Gympie Times

Topics:  backpackers rainbow beach tourism tourist

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