Tsunami of cancellations leaves tourism industry reeling
Battling tourism operators are facing a "heartbreaking and devastating" Easter, with tens of millions of dollars in losses, just as they were bouncing back from the crippling pandemic.
Phones in holiday resorts as far as Cairns are already "ringing off the hook" with cancellations after yesterday's announcement of a snap lockdown for Greater Brisbane, worried tourism industry leaders say.
Even if the 72-hour lockdown ends on Thursday evening, they say the lockdown will smash consumer confidence with interstate tourists again too spooked to book a Queensland getaway.
One tourism leader slammed the 'unnecessary' lockdown, saying: "If they want people to stay at home under the doona, they're going the right way about it."
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said operators had been rocked by the "double whammy" of the end of JobKeeper last weekend and now a second costly lockdown in three months.
"It's devastating, there's no other way to describe it," he said.
"Just as we were hoping for Easter to deliver the business that everyone so desperately needed, we have the opposite.
"Consumer confidence will take an immediate hit, with interstate travellers reconsidering travel to Queensland. It's not just Brisbane - destinations like the Gold and Sunshine coasts will be severely impacted this week, and possibly beyond.
"Even if the lockdown ends in three days, the damage will be long-lasting. This couldn't have come at a worse time."
Trevor Rawnsley, CEO of holiday resort body the Australian Resident Managers Association, said many Queenslanders were "fed up" with lockdowns and border closures.
"It's time that the Government really understood the impact that locking down the city of Brisbane has and all of the unintended consequences," he said.
"These lockdowns cause an enormous amount of disruption and heartbreak for businesses and communities across the entire state.
"Phones are ringing off the hook with people cancelling their holidays. We've had cancellations in Cairns, for heaven's sake, because of all the fear and uncertainty.
"I know the Government has to take into account the medical health risks, but they're ignoring the economic and mental health risks.
"If they want people to stay at home under the doona, they're going the right way about it."
Accommodation Association of Australia boss Dean Long said the lockdown would cost Queensland operators up to $35m and potentially much more with Easter cancellations.
He said motels, apartments and caravan parks were already "fighting for survival" and had now lost JobKeeper subsidies.
Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O'Callaghan said the lockdown was a 'heartbreaking and devastating' blow for local tourism operators and pleaded with interstate holiday-makers not to cancel their bookings.
Ms O'Callaghan said the Easter holidays were shaping as "critical" for the industry's recovery from COVID-19 and operators now feared another hit if the lockdown is extended.
"Obviously this is heartbreaking for our industry and a devastating time," she said.
"But we've been down this path before and we're putting our confidence behind the Queensland health system and their contact tracing.
"We're hoping to get through this swiftly and that the lockdown will only last three days and travel restrictions will be lifted in time for Easter.
"We're pleading with all of our visitors to keep their bookings at this stage."
Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel said his region faced a "significant impact" from the lockdown.
He said the Sunshine Coast was enjoying more direct flights than it had pre-pandemic - thanks in part to the Federal Government's recent half-price airfare deal - but the lockdown threatened to smash traveller confidence.
Mr Stoeckel said most of the North Coast's visitors also came from the Brisbane region.
Chris Mills, CEO of Queensland Airports Ltd, said Gold Coast Airport flight numbers were approaching pre-COVID levels and Easter would be 'critical' for local tourism operators.
David Brook, general manager of the family-friendly Paradise Resort in Surfers Paradise, said Brisbane guests were checking in early to beat the lockdown.
"We've had about 10 rooms (of guests) come in early," he said.
Mr Brook said the resort, owned by Sydney cosmetic surgeon and hotelier Dr Jerry Schwartz, was still bracing for an impact from the lockdown.
"At the moment it's not a major issue - we're still chockas for Easter and the school holidays," he said.
"Because we're full, we've actually had about 30 to 40 calls from people saying that if we get any cancellations, they'll take the rooms.
"We have had a couple of calls from people inquiring about cancellations but we're still holding exactly the same number of reservations as before the lockdown was announced."
Originally published as Tsunami of cancellations leaves tourism industry reeling