Town in disrepute for terrorised tourists

THE reputation Emerald has enjoyed in the lucrative grey nomad tourism sector is being tarnished by local hoons and abusive residents, a local businessman said.

More than 20 of the visiting tourists were parked at the Vince Lester Bridge on Saturday night with plans to move on the next day.

At about midnight, a group of people drove to the bridge and yelled abuse and harassed the campers, prompting all but two to pack up and leave before dawn.

David Baker, owner of the Grey Nomad Book Store, said when one of the remaining travellers told him what had happened to the visitors, he was appalled.

“Emerald’s reputation was very good but it’s starting to slip,” Mr Baker said.

“People are beginning to drive straight through the town and local businesses are missing out because of it.”

He said Emerald was a gateway to other regions, with many travellers planning to replenish their groceries in Emerald before heading further west.

The grey nomad tourists spend an estimated $9.2 billion in regional Queensland annually and determine their travel routes through word of mouth.

“People who haven’t got the right information are causing the travellers to rethink their stay in Emerald,” Mr Baker said.

“With the way the economy is going, no business can afford a loss of trade and that’s what these select few local people are doing to Emerald by scaring away the travellers.”

He said often the tourists would comment they had never seen so many “hoon cars” such as Ford XR6s and Holden Commodores in one town.

“I often see these sorts of cars speeding through the roundabout going sideways, and it’s only a matter of time before they hit someone,” Mr Baker said.

“We’re getting a bad reputation as a hoon town because of these hoon cars.”

But Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia spokesman Gary Rebgetz said he was yet to hear a bad word about Emerald.

He said through the CMCA’s more than five million members, he would be among the first to know if a regional area was unsuitable for grey nomads.

“Emerald and the wider Central Highlands has always enjoyed a good reputation and a lot of travellers choose to stop there because of the friendly people and because the town has all the essential services a lot of travellers need,” Mr Rebgetz said. “It has always been very well respected and grey nomads have always felt welcome there.

“I wouldn’t be concerned that the town is getting a bad reputation because if anything bad was said, or if something had happened, we would know about it.

“From all reports, Emerald is still a very popular place for tourists to stop because it is very vibrant and people gladly spend their money in the town.”

Grey nomad tourists account for 4.7% of Queensland’s Gross State Product annually.

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