Overnight stays a welcome step forward for southwest
THE BALONNE Shire Council is welcoming the Queensland Government's latest decision to further ease COVID-19 restrictions and allow overnight stays in the Outback region.
Balonne Shire Mayor, Samantha O'Toole said the gradual and controlled reopening of the regions tourism industry is vital to the shire's economic recovery from COVID-19.
Research reveals the caravan and camping sector can lead regional tourism down the road to recovery.
According to Tourism Research Australia, more than 500,000 travellers have indicated they'd take a camping trip within two months, with an average spend of $584 per trip.
"This is a practical measure that recognises the distances and time involved in travelling through the safe Outback zone," Cr O'Toole said.
The initial ruling was to allow residents within the Outback region to undertake day trips within a 500km radius of their home.
However, overnights stays are now permitted allowing motels, hotels and caravan parks to provide accommodation for recreational travel.
The changes in restrictions, also mean overnight camping is now permitted.
This has the potential to kickstart the recovery for tourism and inject more than $292 million dollars directly into the hands of regional tourism operators who rely on caravanners and campers hitting the road to experience a wide variety of attractions.
The intention to go caravan and camping is significantly higher than general travel intention, with only 12 per cent of the broader Australian population planning to book a holiday in the next three months, indicating that caravan and camping travellers are seven times more likely to take a holiday in the next three months than the rest of Australians.
Cr O'Toole said the easing in restrictions will result in more travellers arriving from other Outback towns.
"We need to make these visitors feel welcome, as their business will drive our recovery," she said.
Cr O'Toole said with travellers only moving between safe zones there is minimal risk, and residents should feel confident and comfortable with the rules in place.
"We need to embrace this positive step forward, and I am hoping it will encourage locals to consider staycations within the shire to support our smaller communities who have struggled during the lockdown," she said.
Most caravan and holiday parks have implemented COVID-19 safe guidelines already, catering for permanent residents, essential workers and stranded caravanners. This includes contact tracing, social distancing and increased hygiene regimes in common areas and amenities. Unlike other accommodation they also don't have shared lifts and lobbies or shared airconditioning facilities.
The Balonne Shire Council have opened several Council campsites and facilities from Saturday.
Wallam Creek (Bollon) Nindigully Tourist & Visitor Area (Nindigully) Thallon Recreational Grounds (Thallon)
Due to barricading for border closures, the Barwon River Crossing Park at Mungindi will remain closed at this time.
Travellers from the Outback region will also be allowed to overnight at:
Balonne Minor (3km west of Dirranbandi) Warroo Bridge (50km north of St George)
Cr O'Toole reiterated that residents need to continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene as the restrictions ease.
For more information on the road map to easing restrictions: https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/governmentactions/roadmap-to-easing-queenslands-restrictions.