About 1 per cent of the Scenic Rim had been burnt out, but the damage to tourism is ongoing. (ABC News: Jennifer Huxley)
Visitor numbers have plummeted on Queensland’s Gold Coast hinterland and Scenic Rim after devastating bushfires razed parts of the regions earlier this month — a double tragedy for local businesses.
It is estimated school holiday visitor numbers have dropped by as much as 50 per cent in the tourism-driven town of Canungra.
Surrounding townships, popular with bushwalkers, are reporting similar figures.
“People are still keeping away,” said Vivienne Rowe from the Canungra Visitor Information Centre.
“Sales are down right throughout the town and everywhere that you go they will tell you exactly the same.”
The Sarabah fire was considered the worst of about 80 fires that raged across the state earlier this month.
Eleven homes were destroyed as well as the historic Binna Burra Lodge.
The affected area totals about 1.2 per cent of the entire Scenic Rim Council area, however, Mayor Greg Christensen fears the flow-on effects of slow tourism will be felt by the entire community for months to come.
“What it means is immediately less hours for everyone working in our cafes, our coffee shops, and all of the service industries and our accommodation providers,” he said.
“That means less cash flowing into our community.
“It is one of the hidden costs of the bushfire.”
Fire struck just as bookings were being made
Bed and breakfast owner Robyn Fortescue said it could not have come at a worse time on the tourism calendar.
“The fires were at their peak just at booking time, when everybody was making their [school] holiday plans,” she said.
“Consequently everybody kind of thought the whole of Scenic Rim was on fire, so they all went elsewhere I think.”
Ms Fortescue said bookings at her Wonglepong property are down by about 40 per cent, and reservations for future dates have been slow.
Further east at Flying Fox, Trish Wilson said she had worked hard to convince customers to honour bookings at her holiday cottages.
“We weren’t impacted by the fire directly but we had people cancelling because of the fire surrounding us,” she said.
“We lost a considerable amount of income and bookings through that time.
“I think I have managed to convince most [forward bookings] to come but we have had to work hard to let people know we haven’t been singed or anything like that.”
Mr Larkin is trying to turn campers away from the wish for a campfire. (ABC News: Jennifer Huxley)
Innes Larkin owns and runs an accommodation and camping site in the foothills of Mount Barney.
He said many people had cancelled because campfires were not allowed during the fire ban.
It is making him nervous about the future.
He has been trying to not only convince campers to stay, but to re-think their desire for a fire, pushing them to instead be creative with solar lighting.
“Customers who want to come and want to sit around a fire, cook marshmallows, that sort of thing, they were saying they didn’t want to come unless they had a [camp] fire,” he said.
“We’re saying to people from now on, ‘do we always need to have a fire?’
“Part of our mission is to try and change people’s view around burning more fires.”
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