Southern Downs Steam Railway excursion.
Southern Downs Steam Railway excursion.

Battle to stop tourism drying up with drought

TOURIST operators and local businesses say planning ahead, investing in initiatives and marketing and taking a long-term view have enabled them to weather the downturn due to the drought and bushfires.

Some have praised the efforts of Southern Downs Regional Council to attract tourists but one long-term business operator says it should have invested in another dam years ago.

Southern Downs Steam Railway secretary and treasurer Kelvin Hutchinson said their tourist numbers were down by a quarter but initiatives that attracted tourists to the region including Jumpers and Jazz had helped.

"All the new initiatives over the last two years of the Council and Chamber of Commerce are coming to fruition," he said. "It takes a couple of years for people to know what's happening."

Mr Hutchinson said Council had been very supportive with help for its grant applications and initiatives and had only this week signed off on its application to operate a rail-less train at festivals.

Marketing was key to success in tourism despite the costs being difficult to find when money was tight, he said.

"All we can really do is try to be top of mind," he said.

Abbey of the Roses Hotel has maintained its established clientele but is doing its best to promote the region on its Facebook as it sees a combined effort will build tourist numbers for everyone.

A hotel spokeswoman said she was happy with what Council were doing to promote tourism in addition to their other duties.

"I think they do a really good job," she said.

She said if everyone chipped in to promote the area it'd help everybody.

Warwick Museum's Bernie Stephens said tourist numbers were up this year which he attributed largely to online exposure and having a good product.

He said their web page and Facebook directed tourists their way and the Information Centre also helped by pointing them out to bus trippers.

He said everything Council did that would help them they would go along with.

Castle Glen Winery's Cedric Miller said having been established for 30 years they planned for the future and invested in their business each year.

With a dam and water tanks he had water for his vines and stock.

"I have plenty of water but I planned it that way," he said. "We don't waste it. We only give it to the vines when they need it."

He criticised Council for not building a dam years ago.

"Council don't take a long-term view," he said.

Mr Miller regarded the current drought as part of the region's regular nine-year cycle, which he recognised from a 100-year chart and from long-term residence. He said while tourist numbers were down a little locally marketing his products outside the area meant it was not affected by the recent drought or bushfires.

The Council has joined with Southern Queensland Country and Granite Belt Wine Country to host Tourism Recovery Workshops and discuss its marketing campaign over the next four months.

Dr Gabby Walters and Associate Professor Judith Mair from the University of Queensland will share their expert knowledge on what destinations and businesses can do to manage their reputation following natural disasters.

The workshops will be held on Tuesday November 5 at 10.30am at Stanthorpe Civic Centre and 2.30pm at Warwick Library.

To attend register at edu@sdrc.qld.gov.au or phone 4661 0423.



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