First tourists in ‘months’ head west to make a splash
TOURISTS are back making a splash in the Maranoa, booking out the Mitchell Artesian Spa and stopping in at the Big Rig, as restrictions ease following months of shutdowns.
Last week, Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk announced Queenslanders would be able to travel anywhere within Queensland, music to the ears of local tourism operators.
Despite missing the first two months of a busy tourism trade, visitors are making up for it in Mitchell, as dozens dipped their toes into artesian water on the weekend.
The Spa was the busiest it has been since summer, with 40 patrons allowed each day divided into two blocks, staff were forced to turn people away.
Aleisha Teske and Natalie Leith took the easing of restrictions as an opportunity to visit.
Despite only making the trek from Roma, they were joined at the spa by a host of caravaners, including a couple who had been stranded in Queensland for 11 weeks due to restrictions.
Spa manager Bree Jiggins said it was exciting to see so many people in the facility.
"It was our second week back open, the first week was a little slower with bookings, but as soon as restrictions dropped we got busier and busier," she said.
"We were fully booked out on Saturday morning at the start of last week which was crazy, and Sunday was booked out as well."
"It was mostly tourists, but we did have a few locals who came out to support us."
Ms Jiggins said despite missing the first few months of a busy tourism season, they were prepared for a stream of visitors in coming months.
"We're getting bookings already for July and August," she said.
"Each year the tourism seasons seems to come earlier, so we did miss out on two months of that, but we're overwhelmed with all the support we're getting.
"We're encouraging people to book in as soon as they know they're coming out to Mitchell, to secure a spot so we don't have to turn people away."
At the moment, the spa is only allowed 19 patrons at a time, with the day split into two blocks. Admission prices have been halved.
"We're glad to see people coming back and we hope they continue to support us."
Throughout the Maranoa, tourism operators were feeling the love from out-of-town visitors.
Maranoa Regional mayor said over the weekend, there had been a noticable increase in visitors to the region.
From June 1-7, Roma's Visitor Information Centre receieved 94 visitors, the majority of which were from South East Queensland, staying in motels.
"Mitchell's Great Artesian Spa receieved 140 visitors, Injune's Visitor Information Centre receieved 46 visitors between June 1-5, and from June 2-6 Surat's Cobb and Co Changing Station Museum received 43 visitors," Cr Golder said.
"This past week, while there were were a lot of caravans and camper trailers, it was noted that motel numbers were up for this time of year."
Cr Golder said Roma and the Maranoa has a unique mix which appealed to tourists.
"It's a mix of country and outback experiences, lifestyle, characters and scenery, all based less than a day's drive from the southeast," he said.
"This makes us the perfect destination for a micro-holiday.
"We are likely to see younger visitors, as they have an appetite for travel and are likely to travel first; thankfully our region has a range of experiences to appeal to this market, as well as the more traditional long-haul road trippers."
Visit Roma president Charlie Eames said it was fantastic to see the Maranoa reopening to tourists, coinciding with their recent soft launch of the Roma Revealed campaign.
"There was a fair bit of leisure travel around on the weekend, with tourists for the first time in a very long time," he said.
"And from all accounts it sounds like these people are very conscious of spending money in the town which is a bit of a change in the mindset.
"Visitors are actually talking about spending money in town now."
Mr Eames said it was great to see the Big Rig resume their Night Shows, and other tourism operators throughout the region reopen or resume.
Looking ahead, Mr Eames said his motel, Roma Central Motel, had already received bookings for the upcoming school holidays and further.
"The phones and emails are running warm with inquiries," he said.
"I'm hoping the government might open the Queensland borders soon which would help immensely.
"We do get a lot of Queensland tourists out here in a usual year, but a lot of southerners swap out their cold winter for a Queensland one."
Mr Eames said there had also been a spike in corporate travel, as companies lift internal restrictions on the movement of their employees.