Resort Manager, Kim Davies, said the damage was a massive blow to business.
Resort Manager, Kim Davies, said the damage was a massive blow to business. Jacob Miley

220 one day, empty the next: Backpackers wiped out

BUSY one day, empty the next.

That's the stark reality for Beaches Backpackers, along Airlie Beach's main street, as they have gone from 220 residents to zero.

The 40 room motel has been hit hard by Cyclone Debbie, with no room spared from the damaging winds and storm surge.

Rooms were trashed, carpets flooded, and roofs damaged.

Resort Manager, Kim Davies, said once the business was told to evacuate, she was thinking, "this is pretty serious”.

"We had to evacuate, we were in the orange zone, so it was a matter of doing a duty of care and transporting the residents because it was pouring rain at the same time,” she said.

"So we were using our cars and were taking them (tourists) anywhere possible.

"It was very hard for them because they were very emotional and they had no idea what was going on and we were trying to keep them as calm as possible - but none of us had been through a cyclone either.”

The day the cyclone hit it was only water damage, but the following day they were hit with the sewage and mud.

Ms Davies described it as " heart-wrenching” but was thankful her staff just pitched in with the clean-up.

The backpackers, owned by company Sun Tourism and Red Rock Leisure have organised their insurance representatives to assess the damage in the coming weeks.

But Ms Davies said the damage was a major blow to the business.

"The last three months have been amazing, we've had a lot of tourists and our occupancy has been at 89 per cent, now it's zero,” Ms Davies said.

"It's definitely going to be 2-4 months to get all of the staff in here to fix it.”

The accompanying bar and grill also sustained damage. On Tuesday, it was still without power, although they were still trading by using a generator.

Ms Davies hopes to get the bar up and running as well as it was before the superstorm.

But despite the high spirits among many of the staff members at the backpackers an uncertain future hangs over their heads.

"I have seven full-time employees that are pretty much working around the clock.

"All the casuals I have I'm trying to keep them included and make sure they are on the books while we clean up.

"I don't know what will happen once we clean all the rooms and how quickly we will be in action, because really, there is about 10 rooms we could use at this stage.”


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