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2 November, 2021

Tourism operators keen to welcome back visitors

TOURIST operators on the Tablelands are ready and raring to go when visitors from interstate are allowed to enter Queensland later this month.

By Robyn Holmes

Michael Barletta and Theresa Barletta at Shaylee Strawberries.

When Queensland hits 70 per cent double dose, expected to be by 19 November, fully vaccinated interstate residents from declared hotspots will be allowed to fly into Queensland. 

When the State hits the 80 per cent double dose – expected on December 17 – fully vaccinated visitors from interstate will be free to drive or fly into the state as well as fully vaccinated overseas visitors. 

That is great news for tourism operators in the region, according to Tourism Atherton Tablelands chair Eddie Nye. 

“Operators are incredibly excited at the prospect of welcoming back interstate tourists to the region,” he said. 

“It’s been a very rough two years for operators but they have made it through, largely thanks to locals getting out and rallying around local tourist attractions and places like cafes and restaurants.”

Mr Nye said staffing could present an issue for some tourism and hospitality businesses.

“We have seen a significant shift in the availability of people to fill those entry-level jobs such as servers and wait staff – they are just not applying for the jobs or they have left the region,” he said. 

"With many businesses not able to offer any certainty during the past two years, it may have forced young people to go elsewhere for a job.” 

My Nye said while he expected the self-drive market to come back sooner than later, escorted tours throughout the region would most likely not re-commence until next year. 

While the pandemic had forced many operators to reduce hours, some had taken advantage of the time to upgrade or renovate so they will be ready for the influx when the borders re-opened. 

Such is the case with Shaylee Strawberries which opened a new café in July. Owner Alice Barletta, who purchased the farm in March 2019, said the new café would add to the experience at the farm. 

“We have had a lot of support from the locals, especially when the strawberries are available for picking, then it’s crazy how many people come,” she said. 

“We used to get a lot of Japanese farm stay students coming through and we have missed them but that will no doubt come back again when international borders re-open.”

The new café, called Two Strawberries, features special strawberry desserts and treats as well as a range of strawberry-based products to take home. 

Golden Drop Mango Winery part-owner Grace Parker is also buoyed by the prospect of more visitors, especially at their shop in Kuranda. 

“We’ve had a lot of support from locals, people from Townsville, Gold Coast or Brisbane at the winery itself but our shop min Kuranda has been very quiet due to the fact that Skyrail and the Kuranda train have not been operating as normal,” she said. 

“We had to reduce our operating hours because it is a struggle without the two of them operating at the same time – there have been days where we have had only one sale.”

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