Southern Downs tourism battered despite lockdown lift
The Southern Downs has been spared from its second consecutive Easter break decimated by a coronavirus lockdown, but the decision could prove too little, too late for some businesses.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday morning the snap lockdown in Greater Brisbane would be lifted at midday the same day, enabling families across the state to safely depart on their Easter holidays.
All Queenslanders are still required to carry masks outside their home, limit private gatherings to 30 people, and sit down in restaurants until April 15.
The threat of an extended lockdown was enough to wipe out bookings at McNevin’s Warwick Motel for the second year in a row, with manager Debbie Bender reporting at least a 90 per cent loss.
“(The lift) is good news, there’s no doubt about it, but the cancellations have already hit. You can’t blame (tourists) even one little bit, especially when it could change again,” Ms Bender said.
“Hopefully it’ll pick up during the week when people get a bit more comfortable again, but I don’t think so. If it does, it’s just going to be a few travellers coming through.”
Bracing for the worst with takeaway adaptations to their restaurant and cellar door, Ballandean Estate Wines client relations manager Leeanne Gangemi expected the “normal” Easter long weekend to bring a booming trade.
“(Wednesday) was a little bit quiet in the cellar door because I think people were a bit shell-shocked, but we weren’t really getting cancellations for the tastings or restaurant,” Ms Gangemi said.
“Something a little different we’re doing is setting up an outdoor tasting area, which will allow us to have a few more people because we’re really limiting numbers inside.
“This time last year, we didn’t know what this was all about or when our businesses were going to come back. This year, we’ve had a whole year to deal with it … we aren’t so scared, we’re ready to trade.”
This week’s snap lockdown in Brisbane prompted Australian Motor Racing Series to postpone its upcoming event at Morgan Park Raceway, scheduled for April 16-18.
Track manager Callum Epsie said the cancellation of one of their most exciting events was a tough blow.
“(Competitors) were all coming from interstate, so they were all worried about getting back into their state, which we definitely understand,” he said.
Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi urged residents, tourists, and business owners to remain vigilant and abide by COVID restrictions amid the Easter excitement.
“It’s not about open slather. Let’s not forget we are fighting an invisible enemy...we’ve been given a reprieve, and it’s about making sure we can keep fighting this thing,” Cr Pennisi said.
“The message from me is to stay safe over Easter. We want you back safe and sound, wherever you are, and (able to) enjoy what lies ahead.”