By HARRY CLARKE
TOURISM operators across Outback Queensland are this year hoping for the continuation of a post-pandemic phenomena which, despite a decrease in the number of travellers, has seen a greater amount of money spent by visitors from the South East, interstate and abroad.
The Outback Queensland Tourism Association (OQTA) marked the commencement the 2023 “tourism season” with its annual Muster conference and the launch it’s Travellers Guide, which showcases 160 travelling experiences to entice tourists looking for a country getaway.
Twenty-nine new Outback experiences have been added to the guide this year, including the relaxing artesian waters of Cunnamulla Hot Springs, the Hughenden Festival of Outback Skies and the Mungindi Sculpture Trail.
SLIDESHOW: Travellers Guide – new additions
OQTA chair Andrew Martin, who is also Mayor of the Blackall-Tambo Regional Council, said the peak pandemic period of 2021 saw a record number of visitor in official Outback tourism geographical area, which covers just shy of 1 million square kilometres and 60 percent of Queensland’s land mass.
“It’s pretty hard to keep breaking records. Number-wise it was down last year but spend-wise it was up, and this year is looking the same – bookings are strong, but spending is even stronger.” Martin said.
“The trend that we’ve looking at is fairly definitive – were going to have less customers, down off a high of 3.7 million nights not so long ago, during Covid.
“We had up to around 25 percent more money but with less people from intrastate (within Queensland). From interstate – South Australia in particular – we’ve probably got 50 percent more spend but the numbers aren’t there.”
OQTA annual Muster
OQTA chief executive Denise Brown added: “We really established that family market during Covid – not just the caravaners – people are looking for short breaks and we’re delighted with the response that we’ve had.”
“What Covid did for us is give everyone an insight into what our back yard was really about. We’ve just done a caravan and camping show in Melbourne and Adelaide and the expressed interest and commitment was fantastic,” Brown said.
“We are expecting a little bit of a drop off in numbers but what we seeing an increased spend and longer stays.
“We’ve established a lot of extra itineraries and experiences and the industry is just rife with product development, so people are spending longer and spending more.
“I still don’t think that a lot of the tourism market has discovered that there is an other airline – Rex – that do connectively from outback Queensland into Sydney and Melbourne, and reverse.
“There’s that wonderful ability to package Sydney and Melbourne, and for travelers come up through Brisbane and then out to the Outback, so we’re working with Rex really closely on that.”
At the Muster conference, held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, the OQTA announced winners of its annual Excellence Awards recognising the outstanding achievements of industry professionals who drive tourism success and contribute to Outback Queensland’s tourism offering.
The 2023 Award Winners are:
VINCE EVERT MEMORIAL FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TOURISM: Robyn Stephens, Outback Festival Winton
Robyn Stephens receives the prestigious honour for over fifty years of dedication to the Winton Outback Festival, a five-day event hosted bi-annually to celebrate the local community and encourage visitation. Robyn helped launch the first Outback Festival in 1972 to help boost the local economy following years of drought. Today, thousands of visitors travel to Winton to take part in the Festival, which saw over a million dollars injected into the local community in 2021.
BEST VISITOR EXPERIENCE: Quilpie Visitor Information Centre, Museum and Gallery
Quilpie Visitor Information Centre receives the award for recently introducing the Quilpeta Night Show, an innovative event where guests can relax and watch a movie under the stars on premium outdoor lounges. The evening event is a wonderful opportunity for guests to gather and appreciate the beauty of the Channel Country under the starry sky and has driven an increase in bookings and extended visitation since launching June 2021.
YOUNG ACHIEVER: Corey Richards, Eromanga Natural History Museum
Corey Richards takes home an Outback Queensland Tourism Association Excellence Award for his dedicated and valued representation of the Outback Queensland tourism industry and for the significant contribution he has made at Eromanga Natural History Museum as Operations Manager at such a young age. Recently appointed as a Queensland Young Tourism Leader, Richards has already made strides in the industry, attending several conferences and building partnerships that has already seen growth and investment in the region.
SOCIAL MEDIA LEGEND: Outback Pioneers
Outback Pioneers was celebrated for their four-week social media campaign showcasing the incredible journey of the Pride of the Murray, a 100-tonne paddler that travelled from Echuca, Victoria to its new home in the Thomson River near Longreach. The historic journey reached a total of 3.2 million people and generated over 600,000 views across Outback Pioneer’s social media accounts. Despite the unfortunate news surrounding the Pride of the Murray on Monday morning, Outback Pioneers Founder and Director, Richard Kinnon is optimistic about the future, sharing “we will do whatever is necessary to ensure our guests still have a fantastic cruise experience in Longreach. This is a setback but not the end of the story.”