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Community & Business

7 April, 2021

Balloons hold their breath

THE skies around Mareeba have been sparsely populated with the famed hot air balloons over recent months as they return to the skies, however they are still holding out for the resumption of international tourism to really kick into high gear.

By Rhys Thomas

Hot Air Balloons have returned to the skies around Mareeba but Hot Air Cairns is still holding out for the dissolution of international borders to push their business back into the sky

THE skies around Mareeba have been sparsely populated with the famed hot air balloons over recent months as they return to the skies, however they are still holding out for the resumption of international tourism to really kick into high gear. 

Hot Air Balloon Australia provides tours down under from up high with early morning hot air balloon tours. 

They have become a mainstay of the early birds’ eyes as they populate the skies over Mareeba and the Tablelands.

In March of last year, the skies became barren as Hot Air Balloon Cairns was forced to stop operating as the country fell into the clutches of COVID. 

This closure was a slow process with them experiencing a slowdown in their business in the back end of 2019, months before the officially lockdown forced them to ground their balloons.

Even though they got the all clear to restart their balloon tours in June 2020 it was not until July that the company was able to operate with any kind of certainty. 

Regional Manager for Hot Air Ballooning Cairns and Gold Coast Greg Daven said that although they have resumed their tours, numbers are down compared to normal.

“Realistically regional tourism right across the board has been struggling when you’re not within an hour and a half of a major capital city,” he said.

“Regions like Cairns have certainly struggled more than others, it has been quite hard to get consistency. 

“At best, a lot of tourism businesses including ours can be referred to as a weekend business.

“As a region we were the largest ballooning operating region in Australia, now were down to one or two balloons a few days a week.”

Over 80 percent of the local hot air balloon business was due to international travel so when the borders were closed and the market strangled, numbers took a dive. 

In peak times the skies around Mareeba could be seen dotted with 10 to 11 hot air balloons nearly every morning, now residents are lucky to see two on a weekend.

“We’re talking about what was the largest ballooning operator in Australia being back down to a one balloon operation,” Mr Daven said. 

“Our business was always an internationally focused business with a little bit of domestic and local travel. 

“When we shut the international border about 85 percent of our business was wiped out effectively overnight,” - Greg Daven

The breakdown of international borders could spell the sudden revival of the ballooning industry however that remains a waiting game.

“Any international inbound tourism will add to what tourism is already existing,” Mr Daven said. 

“I don’t think we’re going to see any big surge in the domestic side, it will probably remain at the same levels it is now. 

“It will be based on what international markets open up and when they open up, that will be the game changer and how that roles out is still anybody’s guess.” 

Hot Air Ballooning Cairns is not expecting to see a decent rise in numbers prior to first or second quarters of 2022. 

Until then they will continue to provide hot air balloon tours as often as they can around the Tablelands until the revival of international tourism  


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© 2020 The Express Newspaper - Providing Local News for Mareeba, Atherton, Cooktown, Kuranda & across the Tablelands.
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© 2020 The Express Newspaper - Providing Local News for Mareeba, Atherton, Cooktown, Kuranda & across the Tablelands.