Road bumps on WQ tourism recovery roadmap

West Qld tourism operators welcome COVID recovery roadmap

Coronavirus
The $14.3 million airpark roof project at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach is this month marking one year since construction began without any public celebration possible. Picture supplied.

The $14.3 million airpark roof project at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach is this month marking one year since construction began without any public celebration possible. Picture supplied.

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Although its income for the whole of last month was equivalent to half a day of revenue at the same time last year, the operators of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum are wary of putting too much time into re-opening despite having a COVID-safe roadmap to recovery announced that allows for more travel and larger gatherings.

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Although its income for the whole of last month was equivalent to half a day of revenue at the same time last year, the operators of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum are wary of putting too much time into re-opening despite having a COVID-safe roadmap to recovery announced that allows for more travel and larger gatherings.

It's a chicken-and-egg scenario that is confronting many of the region's tourist attractions faced with large operating overheads and an uncertain number of visitor numbers in the months ahead.

For others such as clubs, pubs and cafes, the concessions made to lockdown restrictions for outback regions from May 16 - recreational travel of a radius of up to 500 kilometres, and dining in at pubs and cafes for up to 20 locals - will be a financial lifesaver.

Related: Outback Queensland defined amid easing COVID-19 restrictions

Outback Queensland Tourism Association chairman Andrew Martin said the changes meant they had a better chance now.

"We need much more but it's a start for pubs and clubs in some towns that rely on an eat-in clientele," he said. "But tourist venues with big infrastructure, I don't envy them."

He believed they would be in a difficult position until the restriction on recreational travel was lifted beyond 500km, to encompass more than western Queensland council areas.

"A lot of government money has been spent on tourism infrastructure upgrades and I'm sure they want a return on that.

"I'm not making the decisions but I wouldn't be surprised if in another fortnight there's another relaxation.

"I am not talking state borders - that could be a good while and I'm not comfortable risking people's health and wellbeing."

Intrastate travel - between outback and other parts of Queensland - is what Qantas Founders Museum CEO Tony Martin believes will be needed for a positive outcome for the Longreach-based attraction this year.

"Thirty-five to 40 per cent of Queensland is our market but not much of it is made up of people from Winton or Blackall," he said.

The quandary for the museum, which is now the custodian of an almost-completed $14.3m air park and light show, is whether, and when, they go to the expense of restocking and rehiring, which would need a good understanding of whether the bulk of Queensland's grey nomads will resume travelling.

"They're in a high risk group for coronavirus so will they have confidence to travel," he said. "Some have told us they can't wait so it's probably 50-50."

Beyond that is the proximity of the summer off-season, when they would have to shut down again.

"We are going to need a lot of support from peak bodies, and their information about what's happening on the ground," he said.

It was a similar sentiment from David Elliott in Winton, who said despite the relaxation announcement, he and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum management would wait a couple of weeks before assessing how much they would reopen.

"We might do half days and see how the demand is - if it picks up, we can put more staff on," Mr Elliott said. "It's too early to make a plan at the moment."

Staff have been redeployed to work on the museum's fossil collection and so would be close by if needed.

"We want to be there for those who are entitled to come," he said. "And at the moment our annual dig has been put off to September, to see whether it's allowed."

A couple of months of reasonable trade in August and September is what he hopes will help them get through the void of virtually no business next summer.

"When they pull JobKeeper away and we run into summer is when we'll struggle," Mr Elliott said.

Tony Martin agreed, saying there may be a scenario when the federal government allows museums generally to reopen to the public and therefore removes the JobKeeper allowance.

"We might not be in a position to trade - this has to be calculated region-by-region," he said. "We are looking at 12 months with no revenue."

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