Renaissance continues with upswing in visitor numbers
LURING tourists back to the Granite Belt remains a work in progress.
Recent visitor statistics released by Southern Downs Regional Council paints an ugly picture for the region.
However, with the area experiencing a bit of a renaissance thanks to some rain, things are on the improve.
"Visitor numbers across the region are again on the rise," an SDRC spokesperson said.
"We've had the good news of rain, our dams are filling up, access to water is reliable and the public are confident that the fires are well and truly out.
"The numbers at the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre are increasing but it will take time to return to previous years levels."
According to the centre records, just 18,473 people came into the facility in 2019.
Barely 1200 across all of November and December.
That's the worst return since 2013 and more than 10,500 people less than visited the centre in 2013.
Warwick's Visitor Centre numbers remained steady and actually increased by more than 1000 people from 2018.
Alure Stanthorpe operator Marion Carrick said things were gradually returning to normal.
"The visitor centre stats don't necessary reflect what's happening in the region," Ms Carrick said.
"The feedback I've got from locals is February has probably been a bit better than January.
"January was horrific.
"Conversation and rhetoric has changed over time but if we go back to the September fires a lot of conversations from council, the state government and federal government all revolved around fires, drought and statements of no water and rain.
"That, combined with media attention, created a false impression of how it actually was here.
"Fast forward to now and I do think things are on the improve.
"Personally, from an Alure perspective we've had a pretty good February."
A lot more remains to be done Ms Carrick said.
"My feedback from other operators is that it's still not great in the region.
"But I'm thinking we have turned the corner a bit and things are on the improve," she said.
Council's spokersperson said by year's end, they predict a strong turn around.
"Tourism numbers are down across all Australian destinations affected by the drought and bushfires, not just in Queensland.
"However, the government bodies are investing heavily in reassuring the general public
of the benefits of holidaying within Australia, so like many other regions we do expect to see an improvement in tourist numbers as the year progresses."