Sales sliced ‘in half’ after return of paid parking
BUSINESS owners are calling for a solution to the parking struggles in Airlie Beach, saying they have experienced a massive drop in sales since the free parking scheme was removed last week.
Parking has been a hot topic at the council table over the past few months with a scheme introduced to help ease the burden on residents parking at the lagoon and Broadwater car parks earlier this year.
Beach Book Boutique owner Belinda Harris said since the scheme ended, she had noticed a decrease in sales of about 50 per cent, and on the worst day close to 80 per cent, at her second-hand bookshop.
September is usually the busiest month for the lagoon-side shop, but Mrs Harris said she “wouldn’t go anywhere near that” if her figures remained as they were now.
“It’s a lot quieter than what it’s been the last few weeks,” she said.
“It feels like after Cyclone Debbie again.”
Mrs Harris noticed there were fewer cars parked in the car park over the past week and while she acknowledged some of them would be workers, she was concerned the paid parking would keep both residents and visitors away.
“The hard part is because the locals hate it so much, they won’t come,” she said.
“That’s what we need at the moment – the locals to keep us alive because we haven’t got the tourism.
“Free parking definitely turns it around.
“I wasn’t convinced until this time around because I had never watched it that closely before.”
Around the corner from the book boutique, Jungle Trader owner Ivan Pratt reported similar losses in the week since free parking was removed.
“The locals will no longer drive into town, they’ll refuse to park because their opinion is they pay their rates and they deserve to be able to park in their town,” he said.
“Just because it’s a tourist town doesn’t mean we rip off the locals.”
Mr Pratt said during the free parking scheme, his sales had doubled from the same period the previous year.
However, since the scheme ended his sales had dropped to less than 50 per cent of what they were in 2019.
“It can’t be a difference in the people travelling in a couple of days, it’s definitely the car park,” he said.
Both Mrs Harris and Mr Pratt called for a system where people could park for free for the first three hours and pay for every hour after that.
Mr Pratt feared for the future of the town if the council did not come to a resolution with shopkeepers, saying closures were imminent without help.
“If there’s no shops to entertain the guests who are roaming the shops in the day and on a rainy day even more so … (there’s) no town, and no tourists,” he said.