VISITOR TIME: North Burnett's tourist season in full swing in 2016.
VISITOR TIME: North Burnett's tourist season in full swing in 2016.

Tourism season in serious doubt due to restrictions

MONTO businesses that rely on the annual northern migration of grey nomads and influx of Easter holiday-makers are set take to take a huge economic hit due to the increasing COVID-19 travel restrictions.

North Burnett Regional Council has now closed three tourist parks which join dozens of parks and recreation areas closed across Queensland.

Cania Dam, Mingo Crossing and Paradise Dam recreational and camping areas are off limits to the public following announcements from the Federal Government and Sunwater.

The closures include picnic areas, barbecue areas, toilet and shower blocks, play equipment lookout areas, day trips, and camping.

Land and water-based activities such as swimming, boating, skiing, and fishing are also prohibited.

The closure of these parks will affect the region greatly according to Division 1 councillor Paul Lobegeier.

"It's going to be a very sad tourism season I would imagine, and it's going to be tough for our local economy with the virus as well," Cr Lobegeier said.

"The businesses around here are going to feel it very badly."

Each year, droves of senior tourists and families in caravans trek through the North Burnett to experience regional Queensland at Easter.

Whether they're travelling from Gladstone, Biloela, Thangool, or interstate, these travellers stay in the district during their travels.

Now in the wake of COVID-19, this year's Easter holiday period is set to be quiet due to self-isolation and social-distancing laws.

"It's usually Cania's big time, and it was not uncommon to have hundreds of people come through here throughout the season," Cr Lobegeier said.

"Especially with the Easter period, we get about 10 to 12 days out of it, instead of just the weekend. Now they'll have no one."

Residents in the region will also be affected, as they won't be able to enjoy the waters of Wuruma Dam, a getaway of choice for those in the North Burnett.

But as the state borders continue to remain closed, Cr Lobegeier said he had also seen interstate nomads pulling up stumps, and self isolating in the region.

Cr Lobegeier said there was also a growing sense of wariness in the region toward tourists, and he had seen animosity shown to some of the travelling nomads.

"My understanding is they're allowed to stay one night, providing they move on," he said.

"There are a great deal of seniors however who have sold everything, and their home is the wheels they're on. They have nowhere else to go."

Grey nomads Chris Robinson, Lee Robinson, Karen Walker and Ray Walker in the North Burnett in 2014. Photo: File
Grey nomads Chris Robinson, Lee Robinson, Karen Walker and Ray Walker in the North Burnett in 2014. Photo: File

Cr Lobegeier said this could be a challenging season for businesses in the CBD who were heavily relying on tourism, and he encouraged owners to document their losses to see if they were eligible for short-term packages from the Federal Government.

But Cr Lobegeier believes there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

"We're still going to be marketing the place, and we'll be here throughout this time," he said.

"We're just going to be in full swing next year, hopefully by Christmas time, if that's at all possible."

Monto Magic Tourism and Action Group president Melinda Jones said her organisation had decided to close its independently run recreational vehicle stop to help local caravan parks.

"Ours is a not-for-profit stop, and given the economic downturn impacting our region, we decided to close it," Mrs Jones said.

"We're now encouraging grey nomads to go stay at the privately owned caravan park instead."

In the last fortnight, MMTAG has seen only four self-contained vehicles travel through the district, all trying to hurry back to their home towns.

"One particular couple spoke to our caretaker, saying they were rushing back from Victoria to get to Rockhampton," Mrs Jones said.

"They just wanted to get home."

Mrs Jones believes the region's residents needed to get behind each other now more than ever, particularly in Monto where she said several shops were ready to close their doors.

"We need to keep shopping locally, help out one another, and look out for the elderly and vulnerable community members."