A domestic tourism market that is still unable to venture outside the borders of Australia was the target market for the gala launch of a Drive Outback Queensland Guide in Brisbane on Monday evening.
Launched by the Outback Queensland Tourism Association before a crowd of 75 travel agents and 60 outback tourism operators at its Outback Muster event, the new product has its eyes firmly on road travellers.
It unveils 12 tailored road trip itineraries throughout outback parts of the state ranging from luxury getaways to family friendly destinations to tailored bush hikes and ecological wonders.
As well as catering to drive holidays rather than airline travellers, the new product hopes to entice return visits as much as tourists that are new to the vast region.
OQTA chairman Andrew Martin said the pandemic had taught operators a couple of things, a main one being that there was a lot of room in a million-plus square kilometres of the outback tourism footprint.
"Some have said, we did the outback last year but they haven't done it all," he said.
"We want to let them know the enormous cache of heritage and rich diversity of offerings we have to see.
"You could truly tour out here for months."
The second thing the 2020 pandemic-affected tourism season taught the region's operators was that the season didn't have to end in September when the temperature heated up.
It's this realisation that led the launch of the 2021 season in mid-February, Cr Martin said.
He said Bedourie roadhouse and accommodation operator Robbie Dare, also the mayor of the Diamantina shire, had taken bookings almost to Christmas, and caravan parks in the north west had reported 80 per cent occupancy rates throughout the Christmas period.
"You can rest up in the middle of the day," he said.
"The industry is maturing enough to put on evening shows for people; it's something a lot could capitalise on.
"We need to keep developing new product to make the tourism shoulders 'touch'.
"We've actually reached a new dynamic because of COVID and I'm happy about that."
OQTA CEO Denise Brown welcomed the launch of the drive guide to coincide with the extended tourism season, saying it showcased eye-opening adventures, rich cultural experiences, beautiful landscapes, natural wonders, indulgent retreats, and world class outback events topped with a generous serving of country hospitality.
"From unbeatable bakeries to coffee that'd give your suburban local a run for its money, outback Queensland has a lot on offer, and we are looking forward to showcasing it to the rest of the state," she said.
"If you are looking for a family-friendly road trip, the Australian Dinosaur Trail presents unbeatable prehistoric discoveries.
"Many don't realise the outback has some of the best dinosaur experiences in the world, and is the only region in Australia to showcase the ancient creatures.
"If chasing your next adventure, Windorah's International Yabby Race or a visit to Queensland's most remote pub in Middleton to wet your whistle are certainly experiences to add to the bucket list.
"If you fancy a luxury getaway then look no further than the Mitchell Grass glamping retreat or Saltbush Retreat at Longreach or Moble Homestead at Quilpie, offering all the creature comforts you could want.
"With so many incredible experiences on offer, it is impossible to just do one trip."
Cr Martin said air travel was still hard for many to manage and wasn't regular enough for outback tourism purposes.
"Has there been a silver lining to COVID - we certainly didn't realise the extent of the public's reaction," he said. "Only 1pc of Brisbane needs to come out to make a difference to us."
Outback Queensland spans the north west (Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Richmond and Hughenden), far west (Boulia, Birdsville and Windorah), central west (Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall and Tambo), south west (Eromanga, Thargomindah, Quilpie, Charleville, Cunnamulla, Roma and St George) and east (Biloela).
The Drive Outback Queensland Guide and campaign was undertaken in partnership with Tourism and Events Queensland funding as part of the tourism recovery effort for the region.
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The story Outback Queensland drives tourism product with 2021 launch first appeared on Queensland Country Life.