By Tania Phillips
The border closure is not expected to slow Stanthorpe’s current tourism boom but across the border in Tenterfield it’s a different story with the ‘Border Bubble’ introduced on Saturday already having an effect on the NSW town.
Both regions began to pick up in June but while that growth is now being stifled by the border closure in Tenterfield, Granite Belt Wine and Tourism President Martin Cooper said with nearly all their region’s tourism coming from Brisbane, the Sunshine and Gold Coast that region’s boom was expected to continue until later in the year.
“Once the restrictions were eased and lifted things have taken off and the result is its very hard to get accommodation bookings, all of the restaurants (although still limited) are basically full every session, wineries have got wine sales they’ve never seen before,” Martin said.
“It’s been fabulous since early June.”
He said rather than hinder tourism in the area, southern border restrictions had actually helped the region.
“In terms of the Queensland tourism industry the restrictions from Melbourne and Sydney hotspots have been really hard for the North Queensland people – Cairns, Townsville, Whitsundays – but I’ve got to say the restrictions, as they currently apply, I think have been largely responsible for the boom we’ve seen here on the Granite belt,” Martin said.
“As soon as those restrictions were lifted back in June our phones ran hot – every time we turned the computer on there were another nine or ten bookings.”
He said his own business, Ridgemill Estate Winery and Cabins, had not had accommodation available for the next long weekend since mid-June.
“If you want a weekend at Ridgemill Estate we don’t have one available until mid to late October,” he said.
“Our tourists are coming from Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast and we are seeing across the board – talking to the other accommodation places and other wineries – we’re all seeing the same.
“There are a lot of first-timers to the Granite belt – the feedback we’re getting is, ‘Wow – we didn’t know this was here’.”
Martin Cooper said he understood Queensland’s out-bound international tourism was estimated at $9 billion a year.
“When you sit and think there’s nine billion bucks worth of expenditure that isn’t going anywhere – I think that’s what we’re seeing,” he said.
“People saying, we’re still going to travel and they’re going to places they haven’t visited before. It’s an ill wind…”
While Tenterfield also saw a spike in tourism it looks set to be short-lived according to Mayor Peter Petty.
“It’s had a huge increase over the past six weeks,” Cr Petty said this week.
“There’s been a noted increase in travellers and tourists to the shire which has been good.
“But the whole border bubble is going to affect us big time.”
Cr Petty said tourists now had no way of visiting the town, which is on the road to recovery after major bush fires and droughts in recent times.
“They can’t get here – if it’s proved that you’re outside the area you should be travelling in it’s a 14-day lockdown,” Cr Petty said.
“We’ve just got to wind things back again but hopefully we will get to the end of it all soon than later and then we can get on with it again.”
Before the latest lockdown Tenterfield Shire had been planning to run a couple of their usual festivals at a reduced level and while those plans are now on hold, they have only been postponed not cancelled.
“Everything is ready to rock and roll, we’ve got plenty of things that are sitting there that can be activated very quickly as far as events and community things that we planned to do,” Cr Petty said.
“But we’re just waiting for the lifting of the restrictions to go bang – here we go.
“It’s not our council’s fault and the community are fully aware of that.
“We’ve got to adhere to rules and regulations of the government and we do – we don’t want to get anyone in trouble or put anyone at risk.”
Border Pass changes…
On Monday of this week the Queensland Government and Queensland Police advised of changes to Border Pass declarations – primarily designed to provide more essential travel flexibility for residents in border communities.
The changes included the introduction of five categories of Border Pass – residents affected are advised to apply online at www.qld.gov.au/border-pass
The website also has extensive information on travel restrictions related to the declaration of NSW as whole-state COVID-19 hotspot.
Queensland Police said residents living in the declared ‘border zone’ will be able to apply for a new declaration border pass but will only be permitted to travel within the border zone in Queensland and New South Wales.
The new Queensland Border Declaration Passes consist of the following categories:
• X PASS: Border zone resident, issued to persons living in a border zone who are not required to quarantine.
• G PASS: General, issued to a Queensland resident or interstate visitors who are allowed to enter Queensland and are not subject to a quarantine direction. This pass cannot be used at a New South Wales road border.
• S PASS: Specialist, issued to exempt persons who have been to a COVID-19 declared hotspot and are not required to quarantine.
• F PASS: Freight, issued to freight, logistics and transport workers who are not required to quarantine.
• Q PASS: Quarantine Direction, issued to a person who is allowed to enter Queensland but must quarantine.