Debra and Mark O'Keeffe of Kingfisher Caravan Park, Tin Can Bay
Debra and Mark O'Keeffe of Kingfisher Caravan Park, Tin Can Bay

GHOST TOWN: Gympie region to miss out on 10K Easter campers

GYMPIE Region businesses, stretching to Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay, are bracing for a horror Easter trading period as the coronavirus pandemic effectively shuts down holiday destinations across the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week warned Australians everywhere to stay home over the Easter break or risk coronavirus “horror scenarios”, and that warning extended to tight restrictions on all non-essential travel.

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Destination Gympie Region Tourism Manager Andrew Saunders said approximately 10,000 individual campers and caravanners expected to visit during the Easter period would be turned away this year.

Destination Gympie Region Tourism Development Manager Andrew Saunders.
Destination Gympie Region Tourism Development Manager Andrew Saunders.

He said the impact of losing such a high volume of trade would be “significant”.

“While it may be tempting to take a day trip or a few nights away over the long weekend, please stay home. Council appreciates travellers following the state and federal rules, and thanks everyone for doing their bit to help keep our region safe,” Mr Saunders said yesterday.

“Easter is a very popular time for visitors to the coast with only Christmas outnumbering visitation. Although we don’t have an estimated figure, accommodation at this time is in high demand, with the majority staying for periods of up to 10 days. This also has an economic flow on effect with businesses such as tour operators, cafes, petrol stations and retail sales.

“In February, bookings were strong with the projection of full occupancy over the Easter period. Due to the COVID-19 regulations, most bookings have been cancelled.”

Annette Cochrane of Rainbow Beach Holiday Village
Annette Cochrane of Rainbow Beach Holiday Village

Rainbow Beach Holiday Village manager Annette Cochrane said the business had been forced to suspend all bookings until at least the end of May, with only campers of no fixed address permitted to use the facilities while national travel restrictions remain in place.

“The new reality is that there’s not much going on. We’re still open with our fuel station and we’re still open for essential travellers, so if you’re living in your caravan we can take you,” Ms Cochrane said.

“There’s 75,000 people in Australia living in their vans permanently, so they’ve needed somewhere to go.

“Easter is normally thriving, and it’s going to be really felt.

“April and May have just been wiped out, we’ve had to give all that money back, and now we’ll just have to wait and see whether we’ll have to do the same for June, it depends what the government says next.”

Road to Inskip Point completely shut off
Road to Inskip Point completely shut off

Ms Cochrane compared the pandemic-induced state of Rainbow Beach to a “ghost town”.

“We’re feeling it, we thought we had a good year last year but now what we made last year is well and truly gone. I never thought I’d see something like this.”

In Tin Can Bay, Kingfisher Caravan Park owner Mark O’Keeffe said the situation was much the same for him, with more losses on the horizon.

“As far as any visitor trade it’s zero, we’ve got one couple building on the Sunshine Coast who have bunkered down with us, and everyone we’ve got in the park is essentially isolating for a minimum of three months,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

Playground shut down at Rainbow Beach
Playground shut down at Rainbow Beach

“Easter’s probably the most condensed time, and then winter hits and a lot of the nomads come up here and that’s seriously busy from about June to October.

“That will be another big loss for caravan parks.”

Near empty car park at Snapper Creek Boat Harbour, Tin Can Bay
Near empty car park at Snapper Creek Boat Harbour, Tin Can Bay

Both caravan parks said they had received a silver lining of sorts in the form of some customers accepting credit transfers or rearranging their bookings for next year.

Mr Saunders said the council was keeping businesses updated on the developing coronavirus situation and supporting them through “policy changes and assistance packages (and) tips and advice for working during this downturn period”.

Closed shops and empty car parks in Rainbow Beach
Closed shops and empty car parks in Rainbow Beach

“Council is developing several domestic marketing initiatives, consistent with the Gympie Regional Council tourism strategy, to roll out as soon as the travel policies are removed as people will be looking for domestic destinations, this is already evident with some operators already taking bookings for late 2020,” he said.

Deserted road entering Tin Can Bay
Deserted road entering Tin Can Bay

“During a normal Easter period there are approximately 10,000 individual campers and caravanners in the entire region, according to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service figures.

“Although we ask the public to please stay home and do not travel, we very much look forward to welcoming our visitors back to the region once the travel bans have been lifted.”