A tale of two Queenslands emerges as virus wanes
THE upcoming school holidays are set to become the story of two Queenslands, as tourism-dependent towns in the north sit empty during their peak season while signs of recovery begin in the southeast.
Operators in the state's southeast corner are reporting phones ringing off the hook, as Queenslanders opt to holiday near home.
It comes as search data from travel websites Wotif and Finder show the Sunshine Coast is shaping up as the most popular destination for the upcoming July school holidays.
Data from both websites however did show that Queenslanders were increasingly turning toward the state's north, particularly the Whitsundays, as the state gradually reawakens after hibernation.
But operators in the state's north have told The Courier-Mail their hotels are sitting empty, leaving communities without income.
Port Douglas hotel manager Jenny Fulton said she and many other operators in tropical far north Queensland had few bookings, despite the upcoming school holidays.
"There is no one travelling intrastate. If they are, they are staying down the Gold Coast," Ms Fulton said.
"We were full, absolutely full, and then when the original crisis came, we lost March, April, May, then we lost June and now July."
"Everyone in town is exactly the same," she said.
"It's destroying our town."
Ms Fulton said Port Douglas was often inundated with travellers from southern states through the mid-year break, but border restrictions had caused mass cancellations.
"They're the lifeblood because they're freezing to death," she said.
Shingley Beach Resort front office manager Charmaine said the lack of interstate travellers had hit visitor numbers hard.
"We were kind of hoping for a bit of a flood of people, but because those borders are closed it's preventing a lot of it," she said.
"For us, it's been more of a slow trickle."
Lady Elliot Island executive assistant Amy Gash said the first guests in 77 days arrived on the island yesterday.
"We have seen a surge in bookings and calls and inquiries in the last week," she said.
"A lot of these are Queenslanders local to our regions."
"We've been getting a significant number of inquiries in the hope that the borders reopen on July 10."
Ms Gash said they were almost fully booked for the July and September school holidays.
The announcement that three million Queenslanders will benefit from a 'mega-long weekend' on August 14 will come as cold comfort to operators outside the state's southeast.
Gold Coast and Brisbane residents will celebrate extra days off in lieu of the Ekka and Gold Coast Show holidays.
The four-day Easter weekend is often attributed to delivering a $2 billion injection in to the state's tourism industry, but given the show holiday will not apply across the state, this holiday is not expected to reach that level of spending.
In announcing the changed date of the Gold Coast Show holiday, Mayor Tom Tate said it presented a magnificent opportunity for the state's tourism operators.
"For the first time we've been able to hold these show holidays together which is fantastic," he said.
"There would be people on the Gold Coast who have partners working in Brisbane and vice versa, so now they will be able to take a long weekend together.
"It's great that people will have another opportunity to explore our regions and see what they've got to offer," he said.
Data from two booking search companies, Wotif.com and Finder, has found that internet searches for getaways in the Whitsundays and Cairns have grown the most, while the Sunshine Coast will be the state's most popular destination.
Wotif recorded that search interest in Whitsunday hotel rooms during the school holidays surged 570 per cent between late May and early June, followed closely by Port Douglas which saw a 530 per cent boom.
"Since the lifting of travel restrictions was announced on 31 May, Queensland travel interest on Wotif.com has spiked by close to 130% when compared to the Sunday prior," Wotif managing director Daniel Finch said.
"We're seeking travel interest is building for the weeks ahead and then peaking over the school holiday period, both the upcoming July holidays and looking ahead to September," Mr Finch said.
He said discounts of up to 50 per cent were still available for hotels across much of the state, as operators looked to move out of hibernation.
Despite strong growth in searches for North Queensland destinations, the Sunshine Coast was shaping up to be the top holiday location overall the July school holidays, according to Finder.
The travel giant however still found that searches for Proserpine and Cairns had surged 1,238 per cent and 287 per cent respectively.
Finder editor-in-chief Angus Kidman said families needed to book early to avoid disappointment.
"We've seen an increase in search volumes, so the best deals won't last long," Mr Kidman said.
"There are still great deals around for popular destinations such as the Gold Coast, Cairns or Brisbane."
Originally published as Why Queensland will be split in two