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How Longreach has replaced the Amalfi Coast on 'affluent traveller' itineraries

Statewide

Prominent outback tourism operator Tony Martin is banking on the spending power of Queensland’s new COVID generated “affluent traveller” to compensate for the drop in visitor numbers to his well-known tourist attraction.

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The CEO of the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, last spoke to InQueensland when his centre honouring the history of Australia’s iconic airline was literally brought to ground by Queensland’s stringent social movement restrictions in the early days of the pandemic.

In a year that was meant to be the biggest yet for the museum, celebrating the 100th birthday of Qantas, Coronavirus controls instead saw events cancelled, staff let go and doors closed, all on the threshold of the region’s peak winter tourism season.

A despondent Martin told InQueensland at the time that he feared the doors would stay shut indefinitely.

Two months later – with some help from the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program, the State Government’s competent containment of the virus, some refinancing from the bank and a big shot of courage, optimism and community goodwill – Qantas Founders Museum is flying again.

“Since we reopened on July 1 it’s been a curious thing to observe what I would call the more affluent traveller coming to our museum and western Queensland more generally to holiday,” he said.

“I spoke to one Brisbane couple a week or so ago who told me that at this time of year they would normally be spending two months on the Amalfi Coast (in southern Italy). With no international travel they have instead brought their money to Longreach.

“We’re definitely seeing more Porsche hybrids and other European luxury cars in our carpark than ever before. It’s hard to find too many silver-linings with COVID but this unintended consequence of the pandemic will, I believe, have a positive effect for all businesses in our town.”

Martin isn’t the only community leader celebrating the benefits of the recent long weekend, created by shifting the traditional Royal Brisbane Show holiday from Wednesday to Friday.

A jubilant Queensland Premier said southeast Queensland tourism destinations had reported exceptionally strong booking numbers for the three-day break, declaring her government’s Good to Go campaign a huge success in luring city folks away from Brisbane and into the regions.

Annastacia Palaszczuk said regions including the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast and southern Queensland country such as the Scenic Rim and Granite Belt were all reporting near full capacity as a result of moving the traditional Ekka public holiday to August 14.

“These long weekends pump millions of dollars into our economy. By giving Queenslanders an extended break over the Ekka weekend, more, much-needed cash is being injected into thousands of struggling tourism businesses,” she said.

“The current feedback on holiday bookings we are getting from operators is just what we wanted to hear.”

While Longreach may have been too far for Brisbanites to drive to over the weekend, Martin said some travellers were taking advantage of increased Qantas flights between the two destinations, now at five return flights a week and tipped to increase to seven in coming weeks if the pandemic continues to be contained.

Martin also had further reason to smile last week, after the museum received a grant of $20,918 from the Gambling Community Benefit Fund to assist with facility improvements in the centre’s galleries and toilets.

The facility upgrades will include repainting the galleries and toilets and modifications to the galleries’ walls and doors to provide better access and space for museum exhibitions and functions.

“As a not for profit museum with over 40,000 visitors a year, these facility upgrades enable us to maintain our building for future visitors,” Martin said.

“The facility upgrades in the museum’s galleries are very important as these spaces are not only used as an exhibition space by the museum but they are also used for functions, local community workshops and displays which benefits our local economy and community.”

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