Border opening gifts hope for bumper Christmas season
DAYS on from the Queensland border opening the Whitsunday tourism industry has high hopes for a bumper festive season.
After a rough year peppered with travel restrictions and social distancing, the reopening came as an early Christmas present to businesses across the region.
The first flights from Sydney and Melbourne landed on Tuesday and Wednesday with teary reunions off the tarmac.
Whitsunday Regional Council's aviation and tourism CEO Craig Turner said this week's numbers were just the start of what he hoped would be a bumper festive season.
"The forward bookings for Jetstar for Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are exceptional," he said.
"Already, there are many flights that are well over the 70 per cent load factor and there's still a couple of weeks to go.
"What we're seeing is some really strong uplift."
Mr Turner said the solid numbers continued throughout December.
"I think it's super important for industry to finish the calendar year on a high," he said.
"To have (the airport) finally servicing Sydney and Melbourne and being able to have people come from those states is a really good feeling."
A Hamilton Island spokeswoman said the resort would sit at about 85 per cent occupancy between Christmas and New Year and 75 per cent through December and January.
She said new bookings were also up 34 per cent on the daily average from last week with call volumes double what they were.
Red Cat Adventures owner Julie Telford said bookings were strong for the day product and expected them to rise when school holidays kick off down south.
"We've definitely had an increase in traffic," she said.
"When the borders opened it did make a huge difference to the amount of inquiries."
The goal for Red Cat going into the silly season was to take visitors out on full boats.
"With New South Wales open I don't think that's going to be too challenging," she said.
"I just hope that we fill lots of other operators as well and we all just get to enjoy the school holidays and start getting a bit more financially stable."
Mrs Telford said there had also been a lot of support from people holidaying at home.
"The Queenslanders have come and booked everything and had little mini holidays because they can," she said.
Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort owner Greg McKinnon said it was a similar story at the caravan park, with Queenslanders backing the Sunshine State.
Mr McKinnon said the future bookings for the Christmas period were "sensational" even before the border opening.
"Even if people wanted to come and stay with us, we didn't have too much left over," he said.
While some of these were from travellers holding their breath that the border would open, a majority of them came from Queenslanders.
"The Queenslanders have done us so proud," Mr McKinnon said.
The park is up 15 per cent on previous bookings, with travellers starting their holidays earlier and staying longer.
Mr McKinnon hoped the open border would encourage travellers to visit the region outside of typical peak period.
"Maybe Australians will travel from all over the country to experience a humid summer like we experience here in February," he said.
"There's nothing like it in the whole of Australia."