Emerald Tourist Park manager Sally Nicol and owner Josh Dillon.
Emerald Tourist Park manager Sally Nicol and owner Josh Dillon.

Tourism operators welcome school holiday visitors

PHONES have been ringing off the hook as Central Highlands accommodation operators welcome the influx of bookings following the relaxation of travel restrictions within Queensland.

Emerald Tourist Park manager Sally Nicol said she was excited and a little shocked when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced earlier this week that unlimited travel and overnight stays would be allowed throughout Queensland from June 1.

“The phone started ringing that day with bookings coming through,” Ms Nicol said.

“We were definitely excited to hear that things were easing.”

The park has been operating throughout the coronavirus pandemic, housing essential workers from a range of industries, although it was missing its usual grey nomads and winter travellers.

Ms Nicol allowing travel within Queensland would allow tourism operators and accommodation businesses to have some form of “mini season”.

She said several caravanning clubs which had been forced to postpone planned trips had called to re-book, while many had planned trips for the school holidays.

“You anticipate the season to be from June 1 to September,” she said.

“Normally we have live entertainment, happy hour, fires and this year we had so many cancellations so we are extremely excited and grateful it has been moved forward and hope everyone does get out.”

Ms Nicol said the park has been preparing for the easing of restrictions for months and is ready to welcome visitors from across the state.

“I guess what we can hope for is that Queensland families decide to head west rather than head to the coast for the holidays this year,” she said.

“It would be fantastic if families did come out here and see everything Emerald has to offer.”

With the school holidays just weeks away, families will have the ability to travel anywhere in Queensland rather than staying home.

The Lake Maraboon Holiday Village has also seen bookings increase substantially since restrictions eased this week.

While the announcement has been welcomed by many, Gemseekers Caravan Park owner Terry Gilshnan, who hasn’t had a customer in eight weeks, doesn’t think it will be enough to make up for the missed business.

“It will be a relief but we need the borders to open because that is where all our long-term customers are who keep coming every year,” he said.

“Gemfest has been cancelled so this season is buggered.”

He was however thankful to hear the phone start to ring on Tuesday as travellers began to make their bookings for the school holidays.

Mr Gilshnan said he was thankful bookings were coming in but said it was different to previous years when he had to knock people back by July due having reached capacity.