Travellers losing 'confidence to travel' to Qld as borders close again
Aug 07, 2020
By Tony Moore
Gold Coast business owners fear tourists are losing confidence in booking Queensland holidays, as the state again prepares to close its borders to travellers from NSW and the ACT.
Having already blocked travellers from Victoria and Greater Sydney, Queensland is expanding its border ban from Saturday.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk defended the fresh crackdown, warning a second wave of COVID-19 cases would deliver an almost $5 billion blow to the state's economy.
“It only takes one or two people coming into Queensland … and we could have a situation like is unfolding in Victoria. Queenslanders don’t want to go backwards,” she said.
Tourism employs more than 235,000 people and injects more than $27 billion into Queensland’s economy, Tourism Research Australia's latest data shows.
Several Gold Coast businesses said the new restrictions might not be as bad as the the first closure, until July 10, but travellers and local residents were getting frustrated by the frequent changes.
Maggie Best, co-owner of Coolangatta's Meridian Towers Resort, said she had noticed a change in the attitude of travellers crossing the New South Wales border to Coolangatta.
"People now have no confidence to travel because the border rules can change at any time," Ms Best said.
"It's a constantly changing environment. You come up the border checkpoint and they turn you around at the checkpoint.
"We've had people drive for six hours, 10 hours to be turned around.
"We have already seen the border closed for several areas of New South Wales, so our bookings have dropped already."
Ms Best said Meridian Towers was operating at about 10 per cent occupancy when she would usually be full at this time of year.
"[Normally] We just wouldn't have enough rooms. But not this week," she said.
Great Southern Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce president Hilary Jacobs said the group understood the Premier's rationale but it was affecting potential travellers.
"If I was a traveller and I had planned to come to visit Queensland and the door was shut in my face I would be upset," she said.
"I would be thinking about whether I would go to Queensland again."
At Kirra, beachwear shop owner Marion Richards agreed with the Premier's decision to again close the borders.
"You just can't plan for idiots. I know she is protecting us, but it is going to be tough," she said.
But Ms Richards feared travellers who had to cut short or cancel their week or two booked in Queensland would make different plans.
"You just won't bother coming," she said.
"Now you are stopping a quarter of Australia from getting here again, so our numbers (travellers) are going to go down again."
She said locals had "rediscovered" her Beach de Mer store in Kirra, which had done well enough since borders re-opened on July 10 that she wasn't eligible for the federal government's JobKeeper payment in the last period.
Cafe all Sorts co-owner Cameron Shield said his popular Kirra cafe was well supported by locals despite the interstate trade dying.
"When we first went into lockdown (pre-July 10) it was more domestic tourists that we were not getting through, mostly from Victoria and New South Wales," Mr Shield said.
"Business since has not been too bad. We are surviving on locals mostly.
"It is about 60 to 65 per cent of what we would normally be doing."
The four business operators believe the Premier has made the right call in closing Queensland's road borders again but say tighter controls at the Gold Coast Airport would be more effective.
Mr Shield said the road border closure was mostly frustrating local business and residents who needed to continually adjust to the new steps to cross the border for work or social events.
"I think she is probably doing the right thing," Mr Shield said.
"I think its a case of you want to be ahead of it. If there is an outbreak in New South Wales then that is going to be disastrous for Queensland," he said.
"Especially when you consider those three girls who have recently come back from Melbourne and contracted COVID-19.
"It will be interesting to see how that unfolds in the next week."
Travellers from NSW and the ACT, as well as Victoria, will be denied entry to Queensland from Saturday unless they secure a special exemption.
Queenslanders returning from the two states and the national capital will be forced to pay for 14 days in hotel quarantine once back in the Sunshine State.
Ms Palaszczuk said closing the border to NSW, which has recorded 110 new cases in the past week, was a pre-emptive move because "we've seen that Victoria is not getting better and we're not going to wait for New South Wales to get worse".
Despite recording no new cases in the past week, the ACT was also declared a hotspot by the Queensland government, thanks to "intelligence" suggesting Sydney residents were travelling to Queensland via Canberra to sidestep border restrictions.
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