Rattler's return brings $325k joy, jobs to Gympie business
SMILES over the Mary Valley Rattler have extended beyond the passengers, with the Great Eastern Motor Inn looking at a $325,000 boon over the next year alone thanks to its return.
Owner Derek Connolly celebrated the first busload of 45 visitors from Warwick, who hit the town last week to enjoy the train, explore the region, and booked his hotel out for four days.
And it is just the tip of the iceberg, with four more busloads to arrive this year and 60 booked in the next.
Mr Connolly said it was like stepping back six years.
"We were averaging 50-60 bus groups per year,” he said.
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They were not coming from nearby either, with groups on their way from northern New South Wales, western Queensland, the Gold Coast, Mackay and Townsville.
The bookings also paid off in another way: jobs.
"In that time I've been able to gainfully employ two more people,” he said.
That first bus alone had injected more than $18,000 into his business, and the expected $325,000 coming in over the next year should allow for three more new jobs, MrConnolly said.
Not that the bookings had just cropped up overnight.
Mr Connolly said he had been marketing them for the past six months.
The biggest challenge had been trying to pin down when the first one should be booked in, given the prolonged absence of a start date.
It ultimately became a call he made himself.
"I took a punt on it, that it would be late September or early October,” he said.
The decision paid off, but it has highlighted the need to know what is happening to make sure the region's tourism booms.
"That's been the main stumbling block.”
"We've got to know what's going on with them,” he said.
He hoped it would not be long before other parts of the Rattler experience returned to Gympie.
"We haven't even begun to get buses of kids from schools yet, or the theme nights.
"Those theme nights were very, very popular.
"We're not even at the tip of the iceberg.
"In terms of sustainable tourism the Rattler's a no-brainer.”
And while having the train back was great, MrConnolly said it was important that the region's other historical pieces were identified and protected.
Not just for adults, either.
"About 30 per cent of those on the train are kids,” he said.
"How good is that?”
"We are really protecting not only the historical value, but also for the youth of tomorrow,” he said.
"The Rattler and the steam train is so important.
"There's not many of them around Australia and we're fortunate to have them here.”