‘THERE’S JUST NO HOPE’: How tourism plans to forge ahead
GORDANA Sommer's backyard was once the envy of tourists near and far but a double whammy of drought and fires has left her heartbroken and desolate.
In September, Ms Sommer and guests of her Girraween Country Inn had to evacuate due to Granite Belt fires that blazed in the national park behind her.
While her property was saved, fires that still surrounded her had left her unsure of how long she could keep the business afloat.
"We've already got two couples who have cancelled for this weekend and those were with dinner and breakfast and tours to wineries," she said.
"If a fire comes again, I might as well bend my ass up and kiss goodbye."
"There's just no hope, we had this beautiful bushland, and now it's just dead hills."
Hearing similar stories of heartbreak throughout the region, fellow accommodation owner Sonia Hunt knew she had to do something to help out.
She launched a brand new tourism initiative, pitching in $50 of free beverages for every booking that spent $50 in the Southern Downs businesses.
In 2011, Ms Hunt's own Abbey of the Roses suffered a similar blow due to The Gap being closed from floods, so she knew how detrimental a closure could be.
"For almost two years afterwards, we got people saying 'Oh wow, we thought The Gap was closed," she said.
Ms Hunt said the initiative was about supporting her fellow businesses, regardless of the financial cost.
"With the fires, we've definitely slowed down but we're a destination place. People come to us because we're a little bit different, but it has impacted businesses and all the hotels, particularly family ones," she said.
"You can't be selfish and think about yourself, you have to think about the whole town."
She also hoped it would encourage visitors from the city to realise the severity of the situation.
"It's getting the word out that we need to get business out here, otherwise we will only see more shops close, and … the less attractive we are to tourists," she said.
"We're all still here."