‘It’s good to be back … but will it ever be the same?

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Grey nomads ask has the Big Lap changed
Happy days ... will they ever be here again?

As travel restrictions are slowly eased, grey nomads who have been actively discouraged from hitting the road are once again being embraced by many local communities who have been desperately missing their economic input.

When, at some stage in the future, internal borders are finally opened again this desire to attract tourists into regional Australia will inevitably reach new levels of enthusiasm. However, some experts such as John Warhurst, an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University, predicts that some travellers may be a little less inclined to accept the invitation.

Writing in the Canberra Times, Professor Warhurst said that the border closures have come as a terrific shock to Australians who are used to travelling around the country freely. He said that fear of infection drove a remarkable level of compliance from the public at the peak of the pandemic.

“Incoming travellers were seen to be a danger to the local community, whether they were foreigners to Australia, foreigners to a state or foreigners to a region,” he said. “Foreigners of any sort were not welcome … official health advice supported these fears.”

Professor Warhurst said that underlying that fear was a deeper suspicion in the minds of some people towards anyone who is not a local.

“Within Australia, deeply rooted interstate and interregional suspicions exist, built on local loyalties and suspicion of outsiders,” he wrote. “These are easily recognisable at the state level … for instance in the attitude of Western Australians towards the eastern states and of Queenslanders towards southerners, but they also apply more generally.”

Professor Warhurst argues that, despite the economic advantages to local communities of travel and tourism, there remains some irritation that local lifestyles are disturbed by outsiders, even those outsiders who spend a lot of money.

“This irritation is seen in trivial ways during normal times when tourists cause congestion on the roads and overcrowding in shops,” he said. “In times like the pandemic, the irritation becomes anger directed at outsiders … locals make it abundantly clear that outsiders are unwelcome, sometimes that anger is so strongly expressed that it becomes personal.”

As restrictions on interregional travel ease further and interstate borders open in the coming months, Professor Warhurst says it will be interesting to see how travellers react.

“Ironically, once the closures are lifted great efforts will then be made by state governments, local governments, tourism authorities and individual enterprises to woo back tourists and holidaymakers,” he said. “Keep out. Pushed here. Pulled there. It would not be a surprise if many Australians become sick and tired of being used and abused as objects of economic recovery in a great big social experiment.”

• Will you be as excited as ever to head into the regions? Comment below.

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8 Responses to ‘It’s good to be back … but will it ever be the same?

  1. Just waiting for the borders to open so our interstate friends can join us in the bush, heading to the north west of NSW in the hope that the masses are not there.

  2. Yes

  3. You bet….can’t wait.

  4. Hopefully the prickly feelings can be overcome. Hope the free camps reopen, sick of 100% caravan parks for last 2 months. Need some time in the bush.

  5. I think people need to understand that being welcome in someone else’s town or region is predicated on how much they need your money to survive.
    I am guilty of looking for the best in people as are many travellers and we forget very quickly the recent tyre slashing, threats of violence and other unwelcoming actions in some small towns and regions. I’m afraid that I have become cynical in my old age. It won’t stop me travelling but it will be in the back of my mind what some communities did to travellers.

  6. We are on our first trip since travel resumed things have changed
    We are more isolated stay away from shops and crowds
    Tend to stay longer in free areas away from crowded c/parks
    Only use our own facilities
    Because we do this we are now spending less
    little or no contact with other travellers so yes much has changed
    Will it return to how it was I don’t know

  7. I’ve tried contacting two parks here in QLD, even for a weekend getaway, but they haven’t responded or got back to me. Can only assume they will not reopen.

  8. My husband and I are hoping to travel north within SA however many caravan parks not open yet and no guarantees toilet facilities will provided by those parks when they open. Rethinking our plans and will most likely free camp or go to NP’s & Station stays whereas we usually support the local CP’s as well as the above options.

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