Smaller towns missing out on visitor boom
SOMERSET businesses preparing to reopen from coronavirus lockdowns say they have been given hope by an increase in travellers in the region.
While businesses in major towns like Fernvale and Esk have reported big crowds in the first weeks of relaxed restrictions, smaller towns in the north of the region haven't been as lucky.
But in Linville, 50km north of Esk, there's signs it could be changing.
Leah Squire took over the Linville Hotel last year and said Covid-19 certainly hadn't been part of the plan.
"(It was) a bit of a shock to the system," Ms Squire said.
"It's not great when your financial income is just taken away."
In the past weeks, there's been few visitors in the area, despite eased restrictions allowing travel up to 150km.
"It's still very quiet," she said. "We get people riding (on the rail trail) from Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, but … 150km is not quite far enough."
Community groups have also been hit hard.
Toogoolawah and Districts History group operate a history museum at the Toogoolawah Railway Station and host a monthly community market.
Secretary Beryce Nelson said the impact of the closures had been huge.
"We've lost over 30 per cent of our income … the summer months (are) our boom months," Ms Nelson said.
"All the community groups would be in the same boat."
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While restrictions had eased, Ms Nelson said the markets would not return for some time as the organisers' first priority was community safety.
"Everybody we've spoken to is reluctant … We want to make sure we're completely safe," she said.
"We're going to wait until it's appropriate to start and that could be a couple of months."
But there appears to be change on the horizon, with more visitors beginning to return in the past week.
Ms Nelson said she had seen an increase in travellers in the Toogoolawah township.
At Linville, publican Leah Squire also said there had been more activity in the remote town.
"The cycling traffic on the trail has definitely picked up in the last week," she said.
The publican has found a silver lining in the forced closure, using it to renovate the pub in time for a June 12 reopening under stage two restrictions.
The response from both locals and travellers had been incredible, she said, giving her hope business will boom when the pub reopens.
"Our phone is ringing off the hook for room bookings.
"Even a lot of locals have been messaging us - the support's been amazing."