Australia

Northern NSW havens poised to cash in after Queensland shuts border

The NSW north coast will reap the benefits of a captive Sydney holiday market after Queensland sealed its border for the second time in five months.

The clampdown threatens to damage consumer and business confidence on both sides of the border, but economists said the move would hit the Queensland economy hardest because of that state’s reliance on interstate tourism.

Byron Bay in northern NSW is one beneficiary of Queensland's hard border closure.

Byron Bay in northern NSW is one beneficiary of Queensland's hard border closure.Credit:Destination NSW

Byron Bay is among the towns poised to cash in, with local tourism operators receiving an influx of bookings from Sydneysiders keen to escape the winter.

Destination Byron president David Jones said the border closure provided a boon for Byron Bay and surrounding towns with "a barrage of demand" coming through recently.

"The northern NSW region is a huge recipient of all those displaced travellers," Mr Jones said. "Over the past week and a half we've seen a tremendous volume of enquiries come through."

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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday that all visitors from NSW and the ACT will be denied entry to the state from Saturday, August 8 except for rare exemptions. Last Saturday those travelling from Greater Sydney were banned from entering Queensland due to COVID-19.

SGS Economics & Planning economist Marcus Spiller predicts the border closure will take a bigger financial toll on Queensland than NSW.

“In broad economic terms I think this move is more detrimental to Queensland than it is to NSW in the short term,” Dr Spiller said.

“This will disrupt patterns of holiday-making and tourism and could have an echo effect that lasts a while.”

Dr Spiller also warned the second border closure could disrupt interstate business relationships more broadly.

“In the longer term it could be that this parochialism leaves an adverse legacy,” he said.

Deloitte tourism industry analyst Adele Labine-Romain said a raft of NSW destinations stood to benefit as families revise interstate holiday plans.

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“If you are a destination in the northern parts of NSW right now you’re actually happy that the Queensland border is shut,” she said.

“There’s a big opportunity for places along the North Coast.”

Ms Labine-Romain estimates interstate visitors normally account for around 30 per cent of Queensland’s annual tourism revenue, while another 20 per cent comes from overseas travellers.

She said the border closure will make it harder for the state to keep its tourism industry alive, especially in the north.

Mr Jones, whose day job is sales and marketing manager at luxury Elements of Byron resort, expects the region to hit record levels of occupancy between now and January if the border uncertainty continues to weigh on confidence.

"It will be disastrous for the visitor economy in Queensland," he said. "For them to miss the July school holidays and potentially the September-October school holidays will really hurt them."

Elements of Byron resort (pictured) has been inundated with bookings.

Elements of Byron resort (pictured) has been inundated with bookings.

Families from Sydney who postponed overseas holidays due to COVID-19 and now had to cancel Queensland holidays as well were getting restless, Mr Jones said.

"They can only sit on the sidelines for so long before they need a week by a pool," he said. "That's why Byron has been pummelled [with demand]."

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the latest border restrictions – which surprised him – were devastating.

Queensland tourism operators are suffering after domestic and international border closures.

Queensland tourism operators are suffering after domestic and international border closures.Credit:Tourism and Events Queensland

"It's another blow to an industry that is already punch-drunk from six months of bad news. This going backwards is obviously sapping our confidence and undermining our hope," he said.

"It really throws into question all our planning in the future. How do we navigate our path out of this apparently indeterminate health crisis?"

Cairns Regional Council mayor Bob Manning said watching his tourism-reliant community suffer through this left him feeling "drained".

"I see families that are falling apart. You see people that are no longer coping," Cr Manning said.

"I fear what we're going to see here is so many smaller businesses fail and if they fail they won't be back. If you go through that you'll never get a bank loan again, the rest of your life will be hell."

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