How one man’s bright idea turned into our $60 million long weekend

A Tangalooma resort staffer is being credited with a $60 million idea that will lead to a packed out Moreton Island resort this weekend and boost tourism from Weipa to the Scenic Rim.

Aug 12, 2020, updated Aug 12, 2020
Data shows a return to tourism spending

Data shows a return to tourism spending

Chris Southam, a digital content executive at the resort, came up with the idea of shifting the Ekka public holiday from its normal Wednesday this year to Friday, creating a long weekend that has packed out resorts on the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast and southern Queensland.

After shutting down for three months because of COVID-19, even Tangalooma will be packed this weekend and will be back to running four boats a day to the island.

While Southam came up with the idea it was Tangalooma’s marketing manager Bernie O’Keefe who first raised it at a tourism conference in May.

“It just took off,” O’Keefe said after the idea was reported in InQueensland.

“I think after the ABC got on to it and then everyone else.

“Chris came up with the idea in a team meeting and I thought we should run with it.”

From a simple idea that no one else had thought of a mini tourism boom has been created. It is estimated the idea from that Tangalooma team meeting will be worth $60 million to the tourism industry as councils including Weipa, Brisbane, Rockhampton, Livingstone, Mackay, Gold Coast, Logan, Burdekin, Charters Towers, Cloncurry and Whitsunday (for the Bowen area only) council areas opted to switch their normal Ekka equivalent public holiday to this weekend.

“I’ve been talking to a few others (resorts) and everyone is pretty positive,” O’Keefe said.

After reopening in July, Tangalooma is now building towards the September school holidays when it should have about 70 per cent of last year’s occupancy level, according to O’Keefe.

He said the island had been heavily impacted by the pandemic shutdown with the loyal southeast Queenslanders unable to cover the impact of no international visitors, including the regular cruise ships that stopped off at the island.

However, all its tours, including its popular dolphin feeding, will be back up and running this weekend.

Other resorts are also getting back on their feet. Hamilton Island has also recently reopened and the long weekend is being seen as a big boost to near-Brisbane resorts.

The campgrounds on North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) are at near capacity and Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Cameron Costello said the campgrounds were doing better than last year, even with social distancing measures cutting capacity significantly.

“In July we tripled bookings from last year,” Costello said.

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According to Tourism Minister Kate Jones the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast and Southern Queensland country were all reporting near full capacity.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said shifting the holiday and creating a new long weekend in southeast Queensland was aimed at helping tourism operators as they recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

“These long weekends pump millions of dollars into our economy. By giving Queenslanders an extended break over the Ekka weekend, more, much-needed cash is being injected into thousands of struggling tourism businesses,” she said.

“The current feedback on holiday bookings we are getting from operators is just what we wanted to hear.

“Reports from the Sunshine Coast are that finding accommodation is becoming increasingly hard, while on the Fraser Coast many operators, including the whale fleet, are reporting they are near capacity.

“On the Granite Belt it’s a similar story, with operators delighted at the strong forward bookings, not only for the long weekend but through to the September school holidays.

“What this shows is our Good to Go campaign has really hit the right chord with Queenslanders who have never been happier to get out and explore their state.”

Southern Queensland Country Tourism chief executive Peter Homan said the long weekend would be a huge boost to the industry.

“Tourism operators across the Southern Queensland Country region are already booked out for the long weekend, with areas including the Granite Belt, Bunya Mountains and much of Toowoomba showing bookings that exceed the same period for last year,” he said.

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