3 Things You Need To Know Before Booking A Tropical North Queensland Holiday This Year
As the tourism sector regains its footing after a devastating 2020, it’s important to know how things have changed and what you can do to maximise your enjoyment, especially if you’re keen on a Queensland holiday.
When the mercury drops, the northern parts of the Sunshine State hit their stride. From the Whitsundays up to the Daintree, temperatures are comfortable and the season is dry, making it peak season for freezing Aussies in search of a balmy break. But this 2021 season follows the tourism sector’s shocking blow last year thanks to a certain pandemic.
Thankfully, some of our hardest-hit holiday destinations are experiencing an upswing of domestic travellers keen to see bucket-list locations in Australia. But the reality is there are some hurdles to clear before you can completely relax on your Queensland holiday.
“COVID 19 has seen a new range of challenges bubble to the surface,” explains Tara Bennett, CEO of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree.
Last year, the tourism industry had to let go of a lot of staff and car hire companies dropped their fleets. A year on, demand is now skyrocketing, but it’s moved faster than anticipated and the sector is playing catch up.
“The greatest challenge, now that visitors have returned to the region, is the lack of working holiday visa holders in the area to take up the tourism and hospitality jobs they would normally fill,” says Tara. “This means some businesses like restaurants are only open five days a week rather than seven. They simply don’t have the staff.”
In response to this need for workers, the Queensland Government launched a ‘Work In Paradise’ initiative with monetary incentives in place to entice workers to relocate to these areas. But that leads us into another obstacle.
“On top of [the worker shortage] is a lack of housing, as many backpackers and guest house-style accommodations are running at reduced capacity in compliance with COVID regulations,” adds Tara.
The Whitsundays is also experiencing housing shortages for workers, with many previous lodgings turning into Airbnbs to capitalise on the uptick in tourists.
It’s a strange time as we navigate this transition period, and while it won’t take away from you having an amazing holiday, it doesn’t hurt to be an understanding and organised traveller.
On that note, here are three things you need to know before heading away on your tropical Queensland vacay to ensure good vibes all round.
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#1 Last-minute trips aren’t a great idea right now
The North and Far North Queensland regions are sitting at almost full capacity for June and July. Figures supplied from Tourism Port Douglas Daintree show that for the next two months, the region is already at 90 percent capacity. August is at 80 percent.
Similarly, it’s been reported that The Whitsundays has a bumper winter season ahead – the biggest in the last 11 years – thanks to previous incentives driving Aussies to pick up the slack left by the drop in international tourism.
Read: if you were hoping for a mad dash last-minute trip north, you might want to see what accommodation and experiences are available first to avoid disappointment.
#2 You need to book everything else in advance, and yes, that includes restaurants
I was recently enjoying a meal in Port Douglas at a great little tapas place. During just my entree, I watched four different couples and groups be turned away because they didn’t have bookings. I overheard the staff tell them the restaurant was booked out two weeks in advance.
It’s great news for the providers, but to save them from constantly dealing with everyone’s frustration, avoid any issues by booking everything well before you usually would. For many smaller towns in peak tourist areas, you’ll want to book your meals a few weeks in advance.
Tours, activities and transfer companies are also dealing with the same capacity issues. It’s good practice to arrange them when locking in your accommodation and this way, you won’t miss out on experiences like visiting the serene Mossman gorge:
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#3 There is a car hire shortage and it’s affecting shuttles, too
Car hire companies were forced to sell off their fleets last year in the depths of the pandemic and it’s been a struggle to regain that stock amid global car stock shortages arriving from overseas manufacturers.
Cairns is one hub affected by this shortage, which services spectacular regional areas including the Atherton Tablelands, Palm Cove, Port Douglas, the Daintree and beyond. Keep this in mind when planning your Queensland holiday.
But there’s a knock-on effect worth noting, too. Transfer and coach companies are slammed with the surplus of travellers that usually would’ve been able to book a hire car. This simply means booking in airport transfers well ahead of time and ordering local shuttle pick up 20 minutes earlier than you think you need to. Allow extra time to get to your destinations and use it as an opportunity to sit back, relax and activate holiday mode.
Most importantly, this is amazing news for regions that were devastated by the loss of international tourism. How incredible that Aussies are discovering pockets of their own backyard we previously took for granted? Ultimately, this influx of domestic travel is positive for everyone but does requires a little patience and forward planning.
“This issue is extraordinary and we expect temporary for our region,” says Tara. So when in doubt, plan ahead.
(Lead image: Cape Tribulation via Manny Moreno / Unsplash)