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School holiday disaster caps a billion-dollar drop in Coast tourism spending


Tourism spending on the Gold Coast for the September quarter is down around $1 billion compared to the same period in 2019.

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The new figures reveal the degree to which tourism operators in Australia’s favourite tourism playground are haemorrhaging money while the flow of tourists, and tourism spending, remains blocked.

Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said the figures were another blow for businesses currently “hanging on by a thread” during what is traditionally a bumper season for the Gold Coast and Queensland operators.

The September quarter figures generally capture masses of tourists fleeing the southern chill of winter for the Queensland sun, as well as the September school holidays.

She said new modelling forecast a loss of $326 million in expenditure for the month of September alone. That’s a 68 per cent drop on pre-pandemic spending figures.

“This is devastating news for our operators who are holding on by a thread at the moment,” O’Callaghan said.

“The critical thing now is we need everybody to get a jab as that is the key to our survival.”

One in six jobs on the Gold Coast rely on tourism.

In 2020, the Gold Coast lost nearly $4 billion of its $6 billion pre-Covid tourism cash cow, with the latest figures showing no easing of the pressure.

With the virus continuing its march through Victoria and NSW, keeping lockdowns and travel restrictions in place over the border and the Queensland border shut to travellers from COVID hotspots, usual school holidays tourism bumps have failed to materialise.

“Our industry has been facing some of its darkest days having persevered through more than 18 months of hardship,” O’Callaghan said.

“But if we can get through the next 100 days we can rebound exceptionally strongly,” O’Callaghan said.

However, rescue packages including a $3 million spend-at-home campaign, and a $40 million round of spending under the State Government’s Tourism and Hospitality Sector Hardship Program announced in the past two weeks are struggling to stem the losses.

At the weekend the State and Federal governments dedicated a further $70m for major tourism and hospitality businesses who continue to face significant hardship.

Under the agreed package, $30 million will go to Queensland’s iconic tourism attractions and $40 million will be used to provide a second round of grants to small operators under the Tourism and Hospitality Sector Hardship Program.

“We’ve had boosts over the weekend but we’re averaging about 40 per cent occupancy across the school holiday periods,” O’Callaghan said.

It means the Gold Coast has now flipped its hopes to the Christmas break and the potential opening up of the country based on vaccination rates.

She said vaccines were of paramount importance for the tourism sector.

“The critical thing now is that we need everybody to get a jab, because the vaccines will be our only key to survival.”


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