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Gary MurrayNext year looks 'very healthy'

Outback caravan parks report rise in bed nights

By Dennis Amor

MOST caravan parks in the Sunshine State's outback have recorded a rise in bed nights, according to the Outback Queensland Tourism Association's annual report.

Meanwhile, the drive market has made good use of free camping areas in Queensland's north-west, with many of the more popular spots being well patronised.

Writing in the newly published Outback Queensland Tourism Association's annual report, North West board representative Gary Murray (pictured) who has been reappointed for a further two-year term said next year looked "very healthy".

Many accommodation operators had made special mention of the forward bookings they have received in association with their local events, he said.

Mr Murray, who is managing director of North West Tours, said the last 12 months had been "challenging" for operators in a positive way, ever mindful of delivering products and services in a safe and accepted manner.

"The easing of border controls and Coronavirus protocols has been a relief for all operators in the North West," he said.

"The pandemic and its associated restrictions still influence the travelling tourist psyche and continues to be the predominant factor driving tourism trends."

Mr Murray said the North West had experienced significant growth in packaged and organised tour operators visiting the area.

"This is significant as it highlights the change in trends for visitors to the region, knowing that they are in safe hands with an operator who engages COVID-safe practices and has contingency plans," he said.

It also emphasised the untapped market for specialist tours to regions that had once been thought of as too small or underdeveloped as a point of interest.

Events were still one of the big drivers of visitation to the region, with visitors looking for unique outback experiences to tick off their bucket lists.

"Mount Isa Mines Rodeo is a classic example with the 62nd rodeo, a major event for the area, delivered with so many challenges, emotions and uncharted pathways.

"The event attracted in excess of 25,000 attendees despite border closures, hot spots, quarantine orders and recommendations not to travel."

The reopening of the Kajabbi Hotel and the Quamby Pub had also generated interest in the North West and both the iconic watering holes were a "great addition to any drive itinerary", creating additional loops within the region.

"Overall visitation to the North West was hindered in part by a few major projects in the early part of 2022 with the majority of accommodation being booked out from Mount Isa to Julia Creek due to mining and utilities upgrades," Mr Murray said.

"Last year I concluded my report with the expectation of a modest 2022 season, which was certainly delivered.

"This year I am much more optimistic that 2022/23 will exceed our expectations and deliver robust growth and propel the North West back to where it belongs.


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