Silver lining to Queensland’s border chaos
Border delays could be an "upside in a dark chapter" for the state's tourism industry, with three-kilometre, hours-long queues keeping Queenslanders in Queensland and softening the blow of border closures.
Sleepy towns have burst to life this summer season with regional caravan parks seeing patronage surge, however stakeholders say the State Government's looming border decision, on January 8, will be crucial to "keep momentum going".
An "uptick" in the state's drive-tourism market had cushioned the blow of the latest border closures with last-minute bookings for December day trips and overnight stays pouring in.
"People are certainly thinking twice about crossing the borders and having to put up with long delays," Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said.
He said consequently "anywhere within driving distance from Brisbane is doing quite well".
"Anywhere up to Rockhampton - they're flat out really with both overnight stayers and day trippers," he said.
"If that is the flip side of a challenging coin, if you like, then so be it … It's not the ideal situation but there's always an upside for every dark chapter."
Burnett Heads Holiday Park was fully booked through the Christmas and New Year period after a wave of "last-minute bookings … as soon as people realised they couldn't holiday down south", manager Colleen Powell said.
The G'Day group - Queensland and Australia's largest regional accommodation provider - was in the midst of its busiest summer on record, according to CEO Grant Wilckens.
"Across Australia, our bookings are up around 150 per cent on last year and Queensland is no exception," he said.
Meanwhile, a "substitution factor" had helped to mitigate the damage of border closures on the Sunshine Coast, with Queenslanders filling the gap left by international and interstate tourists.
"Normally, we would expect between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of visitors in hotel-style accommodation over the Christmas/January holiday to be from interstate or overseas, but this year Queenslanders make up over 90 per cent of visitors," a Visit Sunshine Coast spokesman said.
Destination Gold Coast Chairman Paul Donovan said Sydney cancellations have had an impact on tourism but that "more Queenslanders (were) opting to holiday in the state and on the Gold Coast".
However, "higher-end" accommodation providers - including hotels who had previously reported bookings plummeting up to 30 per cent due to the border closure - have struggled to fill the void left by interstate tourists.
"Hotels that could have attracted revenues of $3000-$5000 for a week have seen cancellations as a result of the border closure and in many cases this couldn't be replaced by local visitors," a Visit Sunshine Coast spokesman said.
Landmark Resort & Spa at Mooloolaba had lost "numerous cancellations, some worth over $3800 a stay" due to border closures according to General Manager Brett Thompson.
"We have been able to replace some of these bookings over the Christmas/New Year period with local holiday-makers, but … interstate visitors just aren't prepared to take the risk with all the uncertainty about border closures."
Mr Gschwind said the border decision on January 8 will be crucial for these larger operators to preserve their 2021 bookings.
"Most operators are keeping a wary eye on the bookings for late January, February because a couple of weeks over Christmas are not going to fix everything," he said.
"Big hotels in Brisbane (and) the Gold Coast, they probably are most concerned going forward towards the end of January," Mr Gschwind said.
"It is likely that we will be relying on the interstate market for much of 2021, and providing the highest level of certainty will be imperative if the tourism industry is to recover," a Visit Sunshine Coast spokesman said.
Mr Gschwind joined operators in urging interstate visitors not to cancel their 2021 reservations.
"Everybody's trying to encourage people from Sydney and elsewhere to hang on to their bookings," he said.
The recent uptick in drive tourism sparked chaos on the state's roads with motorists travelling between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast facing hour-plus delays in a third straight day of heavy traffic yesterday.
Delays of over an hour were also reported on the Pacific Motorway southbound from Brisbane.
Holidaying in Noosa yesterday, North Lakes dad Andre Lopes said his family was surprised with how many people were in the area this week.
"The traffic is a little bit worse than ideal, but it's part of the package when you go for a nice destination in the holidays," he said.
Queensland's borders will remain closed to greater Sydney until at least January 8.
There were no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the Sunshine State yesterday and five in hotel quarantine. None were from the Cairns superyacht.
Originally published as Silver lining to Queensland's border chaos