TOUGH TIMES: The tourism industry has been
TOUGH TIMES: The tourism industry has been "devastated" in the past few weeks.

Central Highlands economy in for a poor 2020

AS BUSINESSES react and adapt to coronavirus limitations and consumers stay indoors, the economy of regional Queensland is expected to endure a difficult year.

Emerald Chamber of Commerce president Victor Cominos said purchasing power in the Central Highlands had plummeted.

“I think the economy is going to be getting worse,” he said. “Shops in Emerald are closing down, hotels have already closed down. All businesses have had to put staff off.

“If you’re used to getting $1000 a week and suddenly you’re down to Centrelink – the fact of life is that the buying power’s not there.”

He said business will need a long recovery period after virus restrictions are relaxed.

“The way we’re going, this could go on for at least 12 months,” he said. “It takes quite a while to get that flywheel to spin again. We’re going to feel it for a couple of years.

“I am deeply concerned for the business community.”

Central Highlands Development Corporation tourism development coordinator Paul Thompson said peak visiting period was usually from April to October. After a quiet summer, he said, businesses had been building up for the busy season, which is now lost.

“The tourism industry’s been devastated by the situation,” Mr Thompson said. “All over the world it’s basically non-existent at the moment.

“It’s going to take the world several months to reset.”

He said a lacklustre 2020 notwithstanding, businesses would rebound out of the downturn.

“We can just continue to improve and develop for visitors when they do come back. And they definitely will come back.

“The Central Highlands is unique and fantastic in its own right. With the great experiences we have here, we will bounce back.”

He predicted businesses in the 2021 season would be “bigger and better and raring to go”.