1000 per cent increase: Border opening makes state number 1
QUEENSLAND'S easing border restrictions have sparked a tourism boom with an extraordinary surge in holiday bookings.
Data from travel giants Wotif shows a 70 per cent spike in demand for Queensland holidays since Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday made the call to reopen the borders to all states bar Victoria while industry insiders are also reporting sales surges of more than 60 per cent for some regions stretching all the way until September.
Cairns has also become the No. 1 search destination on the Qantas website, with Queensland the most popular state.
School holiday tourists have been turned away from booked out accommodation providers while ferry bookings for islands off the Queensland coast have also returned to levels not seen since the coronavirus crisis began in another positive sign for tourism operators left reeling by the lengthy shutdowns.
Wotif data also shows a huge surge in bookings from July 10 onwards with Hervey Bay one of several Queensland destinations recording a 1000-per cent increase in interest since Tuesday's announcement.
The Sunshine Coast, Stanthorpe and even Rockhampton also recorded massive spikes.
Wotif managing director Daniel Finch said the surge in Queensland bookings and inquiries - particularly for families, was a positive sign for an industry left reeling by border closures and COVID-19 restrictions.
"Queensland has always been one of Australia's strongest tourism destinations and we know there is a big job ahead to support the tourism industry, so it's fantastic to see families are making the most of the school holidays and enjoying a much-deserved break in their own backyard," he said.
Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the rush of holiday bookings was "a real shot in the arm" for the industry.
"We're seeing Aussies lining up to return to Queensland in droves," she said.
Clint Feuerherdt, CEO of SeaLink Travel Group, which services Fraser, Magnetic and North Stradbroke islands, launched booking platform brillianttravels.com.au last month to lure domestic travellers back to island destinations around Australia, and said tourism was vital for the recovery of the communities.
"For island communities that rely heavily on tourism it (the coronavirus pandemic) has been truly devastating," he said.
"We still have a long way to go and we hope Queenslanders keep visiting the amazing islands right here in this state.
"The July schools holiday bookings are looking reasonably strong and we just hope the momentum continues.
"Opening borders will be a huge help."
He also said easing restrictions on weddings would also be a major boost for island destinations popular for tying nuptials.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said the early signs were positive towards a revival for operators.
"Queensland really has an opportunity now to come out of this situation and re-establish its reputation as Australia's home of domestic holidays," he said.
"There are so many different and diverse destinations and with international travel off the table, we are hoping to see a lot more people head to Queensland instead."
However, he said Queensland's tourism industry still had a long way to go in the recovery.
"It's not going to be easy," he said.
There are a lot of operators out there who rely largely on international tourism who are in a world of pain.
"We still have a lot of work to do because it's not as easy as it sounds to simply turn your focus from international to domestic tourists."
Hervey Bay has long been known as a whale watching Mecca, with the annual humpback migration now in full swing.
The surge in bookings and inquiries through Wotif coincided with sightings of Migaloo off the Australian coast as he headed north for his own winter vacation.
Fraser Coast Tourism and Events CEO Martin Simons said Hervey Bay was a more relaxed choice for a holiday than the bustling destinations of the southeast.
"There's no high-rise, we've got the calmest and safest beaches, there's a real feeling of nostalgia about the kind of holiday you had when you were a kid which is really part of the appeal.
Brisbane's Fletcher King is enjoying a Hervey Bay holiday with his family this weekend and said it was an attractive option close enough to Brisbane for a quick getaway.
"We've been here plenty of times before and we've always loved it," he said.
"There's peace and quiet, great nature experiences and great fishing."
His wife Renee said it was great to bring the kids back to the place she spent many holidays as a child.
Across the state, the huge spike in bookings has caught some holiday-makers off-guard with reports of travellers without reservations being turned away by packed hotels and resorts.
Originally published as 1000 per cent increase: Border opening makes Qld No.1