The Gold Coast tourism industry – the region’s largest business sector – has been left reeling after “millions” of dollars in closures and cancellations during its busiest season of the year.
Many of the Gold Coasts’ major attractions, including the beach and its major theme parks including Dreamworld and Movie World, closed on Tuesday as storms continued for a second week.
Tour Collective’s managing director, Anthony Ardern, whose business offers everything from snorkelling to jetski lessons to a ferry to Moreton Island – estimates he has lost $200,000 since Christmas Eve.
“On some of our vessels we use both upstairs, open-air seating and also back-deck seating, which is affected by weather and rain,” he said. “That actually reduces our capacity by 35%.
“At our Moreton Island product, we’re carrying 120 people a day, with $20,000 a day in revenue that we make from that product. And we’ve lost four days from that already through storms and bad weather.”
The storms struck at the peak tourist season, the most important time of the year for the business.
“As the old farmers saying goes: ‘Make hay while the sun shines,’” Ardern said.
“This is our period of sunshine. And this is when the tourism industry needs to make their hay, because we typically have a drop off in the industry through February, March into the next Easter holidays.”
The Southern Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce’s vice-president, Zac Revere, estimated the extreme weather would cost the region “millions” in cancelations alone.
“For example, in our business we deal with Airbnb. So we’re looking at cancellations left, right and centre from people who, from across the country, are just seeing this storm smash us constantly, who would rather spend their time and their money elsewhere,” he said.
Revere said as many as a third of Airbnb bookings were cancelling their reservations, according to some estimates.
On Tuesday, the Queensland and federal governments announced they had made up to $250,000 in financial support available to businesses and primary producers to replace damaged assets such as plant and equipment or to maintain liquidity. Disaster assistance loans are also available for affected businesses in the Gold Coast, Scenic Rim and Logan City council areas.
The Australian defence force will deploy to the region on Thursday to aid the cleanup.
The small business minister, Lance McCallum, said the government was also releasing a natural disaster business survey to better understand the damage.
“Recovery can be a long, hard road but I want our local small businesses to know that the Miles government has their back,” he said.
Business groups welcomed the announcement.
Meanwhile, thousands of residents are still without power.
Electrician Ben Henry said there had been so much damage done to power lines in areas including Cedar Grove that Energex planned to remove and replace the entire grid, rather than repair it.
In the meantime, there has been a run on generators and the local childcare centre is closed.
“Every set of traffic lights between Jimboomba and Beaudesert are off,” Henry said. “All the community centres are trying to do what they can.
“As a sparky, I’ve been struggling to get gear. My wholesaler’s opened up as much as they could, but they sold out. So we have to stop working.”
Ironically, the tourism industry had expected this summer to provide a relatively strong start to the year.
Business Chamber Queensland spokesperson Emma Clarke said their surveys showed that the tourist sector in Cairns and the Gold Coast had among the highest confidence in the state ahead of the December quarter.
Cairns was struck by flooding due to cyclone Jasper at the end of December.
“Already, anecdotally, we know from businesses, especially in the far north, it’s a really significant financial and emotional impact to them, their operations and their workforces,” Clarke said.
She encouraged people to head to the disaster-affected areas for a holiday to help spur on the recovery.
“That’s really important because while the power might be back on and the immediate cleanup and recovery work has finished, the financial recovery is much more significant and takes a lot longer,” Clarke said.
At Cedar Creek, south-west of Ormeau, more than 300mm of rain had fallen in the 24 hours to 9am on Tuesday – the most of any area.
There were about 700 calls to the State Emergency Service for help on Monday and Tuesday, with 50 people needing rescue from flood waters.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned that heavy rainfall and flooding could continue into Wednesday morning but the storm is likely to head north of Brisbane.
With reporting by Australian Associated Press