Tourism authorities in Queensland’s central-west fear that ‘horror stories’ about the area’s crippling drought are frightening away large numbers of tourists and hurting small communities.
One caravan park owner says some would-be travellers are even worried that taking showers have been banned.
Cathy Hitson, who owns the caravan park at Ilfracombe, says visitor numbers are significantly down because of concerns over a shortage of water for drinking and bathing.
“Our numbers are probably down by approximately half as opposed to this time last year,” she told the ABC. “Maybe it is because of all the bad publicity that we are getting as a result of our drought.”
Ilfracombe is on Level 4 strict water restrictions, with estimates there could be about five or six months worth of supply left.
“People are talking about our water shortage and saying ‘don’t stay at Ilfracombe because they have got no water’, which is not true,” she said. “The last thing this community needs is for the tourists to drop off.”
And it’s not just the van park being hit by the plunge in tourist numbers. The town’s hotel, general store and mechanics are also all feeling the pinch.
“I have had more than a couple of people ring up just to ask if they are able to have a shower while they are here, which of course you can,” Ms Hinton said. “It is a bit of concern if those sorts of rumours are circulating.”
The Outback Queensland Tourism Association admits it has been a patchy start to the traditional winter tourist season across the western regions.
“You know we can’t hide the drought,” the association’s General Manager, Peter Homan, told the ABC. “But we want to make sure that the message going out to the public is a positive one, and that we still have great assets to come and visit, and all the towns have water.”