BOOKINGS GALORE: Apple and Grape Motel owner Helen Ward (left) said it’s been months since the motel had been booked out every weekend.
BOOKINGS GALORE: Apple and Grape Motel owner Helen Ward (left) said it’s been months since the motel had been booked out every weekend.

BOOKINGS GALORE: Tourists flock to Granite Belt

MOTELS across the Granite Belt have seen a recent spike in bookings as tourists from South East Queensland flock to the region.

It’s the first time in months motels in town have been booked out, following months of strict regulations due to coronavirus.

Apple and Grape Motel owner Helen Ward said she was somewhat surprised by the sudden increase in numbers.

“It’s like everyone got out of jail,” she said.

“That’s what I’ve been saying in the sense that since the bookings started to come through; it’s just been amazing.

“We needed it. It’s a big increase.”

Predominantly drawing in tourists from Brisbane’s metropolitan region, Mrs Ward said the last time the Maryland Street motel was at full occupancy was March.

“We were really busy (in March) and then it just dropped off dramatically (as you can respect),” she said.

“And then June just sort of picked up where we left off.

“I think it’s mostly SEQ people. I haven’t noticed anyone from Cairns but maybe a couple from out west.”

Mrs Ward said holiday-goers were typically booking in for two to three nights, maximising a long weekend in Queensland’s wine country.

The cooler weather, she said, is usually a draw card for eager tourists.

“There’s everything here and a lot of people just come for the cold weather,” she said.

“It’s because they don’t get the cold weather like we do here but the good thing is that they can come and enjoy if for a few days and go.

“It’s far enough that people want to stay a night but close enough to just do a couple of days.”

Southern Downs Regional Council tourism councillor Stephen Tancred was hopeful council assistance would provide some relief to motel operators still struggling.

“In our first round of COVID assistance measures, we recognised that the accommodation and tourism parks were doing it tough, so we waived the fees and charges for the year for them,” he said.

“We targeted the tourism industry and they were very grateful for that.

“They have to catch up, not just from COVID but from the bushfires and the bad perception from the public about water carting.”

Cr Tancred said council were working closely with tourism body Granite Belt Wine Tourism to establish strategies for the future.

“It’s not a case of (council) being impartial, we are involved and have a good relationship but we don’t want to run it for them. We’re there to help them run their own industry,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re a forgotten or an unknown region, it just has to be targeted.

“We’re trying to get (tourists) to come mid-week and in summer because the weekends and winter are usually pretty good.”