School holiday has been boom or bust at the Cooloola Coast, with accommodation providers experiencing a surge in guests but camping services struggling.
School holiday has been boom or bust at the Cooloola Coast, with accommodation providers experiencing a surge in guests but camping services struggling.

‘We’re being strangled... and so is the opposition’

COOLOOLA Coast business owners have been on the receiving end of a Jekyll and Hyde school holidays as the region's economy continues to fight for its post-pandemic recovery.

Accommodation providers have been inundated with domestic tourists, with one park reporting it is "busier than they are at Christmas".

But that boon has come at the expense of the camping industry, where frustrations with capped numbers and subpar government communication continue.

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Camping service operators say the confusion over camping numbers at the popular beach is frustrating.
Camping service operators say the confusion over camping numbers at the popular beach is frustrating.

Rainbow Beach Commerce and Tourism treasurer and business owner Nigel Worthington said popular sites like Inskip and Teewah "don't even look anywhere close to 50 per cent".

Teewah Beach numbers are capped at 660 on weekdays, about a third of pre-COVID levels.

Mr Worthington said there was little indication when or if this would change.

"Nobody can get any information from Queensland Parks and Wildlife on when the restrictions will be changing," he said.

"We need better information and better communication channels with National Parks and State authorities over what's happening … as it does impact the Rainbow economy.

"I'd rather be able to speak with people and be told 'no' - and why - rather than just not being able to contact anybody.

Decisions on capped camping numbers at places like Teewah – and why that cap jumps for weekends – have left tourism operators puzzled.
Decisions on capped camping numbers at places like Teewah – and why that cap jumps for weekends – have left tourism operators puzzled.

"Somebody's making these decisions but it doesn't seem to be getting down the line," Mr Worthington said.

Ice Man operators Martine Lokan and Rob Gough said the cap was creating a huge challenge for their sustainability.

"Between Easter and these school holidays, we're lucky to be operating," Ms Lokan said.

"We're being strangled as a business, and so is the opposition."

A new problem to emerge was the introduction of COVID day trip passes, which was creating a new problem.

He said it appeared the limited passes were being "block" booked by people with no intention of using them every day.

This left families to book camping permits solely because they come with a COVID day pass - thereby tying up camping spots they have no interest in using.

Accommodation parks at Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay have been full for most of the holidays.
Accommodation parks at Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay have been full for most of the holidays.

Mr Gough said he had spoken to a number of families that had done this.

Other questions linger; like why the 660 person limit is raised to 730 on weekends - especially, he said, since both were well below what the limit could be under health laws at the moment.

Mr Gough said most campsites were 15-20m apart - a far cry from the thousands of people allowed to crowd into enclosed shopping centres.

Mr Worthington was sceptical as to whether the police presence at the entrance to Noosa North Shore was solely about COVID protection.

Concerns over the number of day visitors to the beach had been raised late last year, Mr Worthington said.

Martine Lokan says her Ice Man business, and its competition, are struggling thanks to the cap put on campground numbers.
Martine Lokan says her Ice Man business, and its competition, are struggling thanks to the cap put on campground numbers.

The introduction of the COVID passes could be a "matter of convenience" in helping authorities keep numbers on the beach low.

However, "Rainbow Beach (itself) has been pumping".

And the tourists have flowed to other parts of the coast too.

Tin Can Bay Tourist Park staff member Jo McKellar said the mid-year holidays had been a boon.

Ms McKellar said the park was full for most of the break.

Visitors were largely Queenslanders, often from places like Toowoomba "where they don't have to travel too far".

There was at least one gap still evident in the market, though: long term stays of two weeks or more, usually from guests travelling further north.

But overall the long-term prognosis was hopeful.

"I think we'll be OK," Ms McKellar said.

Gympie Times


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