Magnetic Island proves a treat in COVID-19 recovery
TOURISTS are 'rediscovering' Magnetic Island as the holiday mecca bounces back from the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts and Island operators have noticed a significant uptick in visitor numbers heading to Maggie following the easing of restrictions and as they continue to be lifter, tourists with flock to hot spot.
And some operators spent the downturn overhauling their facilities, expecting a resurgent domestic tourism market to be a boon for the Island in 2021.
With international tourism still up in the air, island destinations are set to be tourism hot spots for Australians looking to escape their bubbles after months under strenuous lockdown.
Iva Edwards has been operating the 27 room Arcadia Village Motel on the island for the past five years and believes the island will be a mecca for domestic tourism in 2021.
When COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced in March this year her business went from 50 per cent occupancy down to less than 2 per cent as they were only allowed to accommodate tradespeople.
Traditionally, Easter Sunday is the busiest day of the year for the Island, but with restrictions in place, the only people on the ferry over to the island were residents and those on official business.
Usually booked out and kicking off their strong tourism season, the island was quiet.
"Basically we were empty," Mrs Edwards said.
"Before COVID-19 we were up to 50 per cent occupancy, which was normal for that time of year."
Mrs Edwards said that once restrictions began to ease Townsville residents started to come over to the island, especially on weekends.
"It took a little while but we started to fill up after a couple of weeks, but it was not as busy as previous years.
"The difference from previous years and this year is that people have rediscovered Magnetic Island.
"They haven't been here for ten to fifteen years despite living in Townsville."
As people from outside of North Queensland start to discover the island destination, Mrs Edwards believes it will only get busier.
"A lot of people have come to the island even from the Gold Coast and Brisbane and so on and they say that they have never been here and thought they would try it out.
"I believe that next year is going to be an enormous year.
"We get repeat business now from locals but I think people have rediscovered or discovered what Magnetic Island has to offer."
Townsville Enterprise CEO Patricia O'Callaghan said Magnetic Island was the jewel in the crown for the region and was busy before COVID-19.
"Prior to COVID-19, Magnetic Island tourism and hospitality operators had just experienced one of their busiest tourism seasons on record in 2019," she said.
"As we emerge from the pandemic, we now have a small window to expedite North Queensland's tourism recovery and resilience by leveraging our outdoor attractions like Magnetic Island.
"The tourism strategy we released last year identified several new experiences and infrastructure requirements for the industry, many of which will cater for the growing eco-tourism market.
"We welcome recent announcements from the Federal Government towards Magnetic Island walking trails and look forward to further support on critical infrastructure to see this destination grow and prosper whilst preserving its natural beauty."
John Shepley has been running the Arcadia Village Hotel for the past 18 months and said since restrictions had eased, business had definitely picked up.
He said the hotel had recently had its busiest Tuesday since he had been on the island, catering for 600 lunch and dinner meals.
"I think the support of Townsville and regional visitors has been fantastic," Mr Shepley said.
"When you speak to people who have come from Charters Towers, Hughenden, Richmond, Mt Isa, north and south and even people form Brisbane are coming up.
"They are saying it is the first time we have been here and we will be back.
"The difference between this place and Dunk and Hamilton, Hayman and South Mole Islands is that there is a local population here.
"So you are not just talking to other visitors but are talking to and mixing with people who live on the island.
"It is a vastly different and unique experience."
Ian Bryson from the Arcadia Beach Guest House Car Hire used the down time during the
restrictions to renovate with the help from a small group of backpackers who were riding out the pandemic on the island.
He said business was picking up especially on weekends and he had been getting bookings from different parts of the state.
"A lot from Cairns, Brisbane, Townsville, even the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast and Toowoomba," Mr Bryson said.
He said the island had be getting a lot of new visitors.
"They have been loving it and totally blown away by their island experience."
Originally published as Magnetic Island proves a treat in COVID-19 recovery