Outrage as Southern Downs tourism ‘kicked to the side’
A HALT in tourism marketing amid bushfire concern has left Warwick accommodation providers outraged as they argue the bad news comes at a time when they need support from major players most.
At an industry conference at Glengallan Homestead on Friday, Southern Queensland Country Tourism chief executive officer Peter Homan said the organisation had eased up on its campaigning for the region due to the safety threat of fires.
"We've slowed down a little bit, given that fires have broken out right across the region, again at Millmerran and just over here," Mr Homan said.
"We're very conscious of that but there's no point in us going into market at the moment while there's still existing fires around.
"As soon as they're finished, we'll be back into market."
But given the fact fires at Swanfels have been burning since September, the news has infuriated the struggling industry.
Rose City Caravan Park's Michelle Cox said her numbers had dropped significantly in comparison to the years before.
"We had one couple who normally come here for three months but they only stayed for 10 days this time because they said it's just too depressing and they headed somewhere else," Mrs Cox said.
She had noticed campaigning had quietened up but was shocked to find out it was in response to the fires.
"I think we need all the help we can get at the moment and they need to put the focus on the fact we're still open for business," she said.
"Personally, I think that's a dreadful decision. I would expect that kind of organisation to be helping out in this time, instead of going 'there's no one going there, let's forget it'.
"You can take the scenic route into Toowoomba and it's only an extra 20 minutes. They could be pushing that instead of kicking us to the side."
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie voiced similar frustration over the move.
"It is disappointing to see that slow down, we as council are constantly promoting the region. I do it every opportunity I get," she said.
"This disappoints our businesses who put so much effort into marketing themselves as well as community organisations who work to keep our number right up there.
"We're certainly impacted by drought and bushfires but we are still welcoming all tourists."
Cr Dobie said the council also fought to make the region competitive in the Queensland tourism industry, even putting money aside with Southern Queensland Country Tourism to bolster the region's reputation.
"We do as much as we possibly can to market the region, " she said.
"I understand they will continue to push once the smoke has cleared but it's still disappointing.
"People make decisions all the time about where they're going to travel."
Both Mrs Cox and Cr Dobie vouched that fire was not a safety risk to tourists.
"There's no safety issues at all." Cr Dobie said.
"People are safe, this is a safe region, the bushfires around Yangan and Swanfels are within containment lines, and no buildings or residents are under threat."