14 May, 2021
Sun continues to shine on regional tourism
The Central Queensland region is set for a strong tourist season despite the pandemic.
THE Central Queensland Highlands has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic well, with the visitor economy remaining strong and poised to continue as the region heads into its annual tourist season.
Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) CEO Arjan Bloemer said the pandemic had not seemed to have significantly affected visitors to the region.
“Ever since Queensland began to… ease its COVID restrictions about a year ago, our key market seems to have been stronger than ever,” he said.
“We have our usual visitors who are keener than ever to get out and explore our state, having been in lockdown for a while but also knowing that things could suddenly change again.
“Then we have those unexpected drive travellers, who might have otherwise headed overseas, or down to the southern states, for their holiday.”
CHDC Tourism Development Coordinator Paul Thompson said although they had yet to see hard data into recent tourism numbers, anecdotal evidence suggested the season was off to a strong start.
“A lot of the regions and Carnarvon Gorge and Sapphire Gemfields have had a really good start, especially with easter and the school holidays,” he said.
“Now we’ve got these two long weekends one after the other.
“That’s been a real bonus.”
Mr Bloemer said visitor numbers were likely to prove positive.
“The teams at our Visitor Information Centres in Emerald, Blackwater, Duaringa and Springsure have been welcoming constant streams of people through their doors and most of those are looking to explore more of the Central Queensland Highlands region rather than just pass though,” he said.
“Our main market has long been the drive traveller; RV owners, so-called grey nomads and day=-trippers from within Central Queensland, as well as Queensland in general.”
Queensland Tourism Awards CEO Daniel Gschwind said tourism remained a significant contributor to the strength of the Queensland economy.
“Tourism remains a driving force for regional economies and communities across Queensland, accounting for one in nine Queensland jobs…’ he said.
“Undeniably 2020 was a unique challenging year, however, Queensland tourism operators took it in their stride, and we say the number of Queenslanders taking a trip in their own state soar – with regional Queensland tourism up 12 per cent in December 2020, when compared to the same period in 2019.”
Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said despite the challenges of the pandemic, the state was well on the road to recovery.
“There has been considerable resilience and innovation shown during this time…” he said.
“The COVID-19 management measures have impacted travel and tourism throughout the state in different ways…”
Mr Thompson said the visitor economy encompassed more than tourism from other regions and that the bevy of local attractions helped to increase visitors into the region.
“Tourism is a part of the visitor economy, but so is visiting friends and relatives… coming up here to work and people coming on business and for events,” he said.
“That’s where events like The Capella Country Music Festival [are] great to bring people in as well, which is a great opportunity for even locals to get out and enjoy that sort of thing.
“[There’s also] Gemfest… the agricultural field day and the Emerald show… [which] also brings people in from neighbouring properties and stations and towns.
“All these… things do help.”
Mr Bloemer said new initiatives launched by the organisation had also helped to weather the challenges imposed upon the industry by the pandemic.
“Another positive has been the timing of two new major initiatives for us: our new tourism brand and the expansion of our Visitor Information services,” he said.
“Both were on the cards before COVID, however, bringing them to fruition in the past six months is helping to buffer any potential negative impacts.
“CHDC now employs two part-time visitor information service officers at… Blackwater International Coal Centre, Duaringa Historical and Tourism Centre and Springsure Federation Woolshed… in addition to our accredited Central Queensland Highlands Visitor Information Centre in Emerald…
“This expansion is a response to the growing demand for visitor services across the region and will help to enhance the promotion of the region.”
Mr Bloemer said international travel restrictions had affected the industry because those who would ordinarily visit for seasonal work were unable to do so.
“To help address this CHDC is in the final stages of a new Working Holiday campaign to instead attract young Australians here.
“We’re saying that coming to the Central Queensland Highlands is a great opportunity to break into the workforce, or spend your gap year, or complete uni prac – with the added bonus of exploring more of the region while you’re here.”
Both state and federal governments are investing heavily to assist the region in weathering the challenges faced by the pandemic.
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the government had invested more than $800 million into stimulating tourism within the state.
“Our refreshed Good to Go campaign has delivered up to $5 billion into the pockets of tourism operators,” he said.
“By remaining positive about the opportunities ahead we can be ready for the possibilities emerging with travel bubbles…”
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said the government was providing support to travel agents who “continue to provide refunds and hold credits for Australians who are unable to travel due to COVID-19”.
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said the government had committed $258 million to support travel agents via their COVID-19 Travel Support Program.
“Our Government provided $128 million in Round One to support some 4,000 travel agents…
“We are now providing additional support via Round Two…”
Mr O’Dowd said the support complemented the $1.2 billion aviation and tourism support package.
“We can all support our local travel agents in Flynn by using their services when booking a holiday this year,” he said.
Mr Thompson said this support could further contribute to the region’s ability to weather the economic challenges of the pandemic.
“A lot of travel agents, especially in the bigger cities, are now creating packages and travel tours to our region…” he said.
“It’s good they are getting that support because they’ve had to pivot and divert, especially those that are doing walking holidays.
“They’re doing more of that sort of thing in our region.
“Those… agents are selling their products into our region and the neighbouring regions as well, which is great.”