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Southern Downs tourism fights back from fire, drought and health crisis

3 March 2021                                                  

Visitors are flocking to the Southern Downs in greater numbers, with quarterly tourism figures showing increases on previous years.

Both the Stanthorpe and Warwick Visitor Information Centres report an ongoing domestic travel revival, with visitor numbers beginning to eclipse previous statistics following a 2020 marred with lockdowns, border closures and travel restrictions.

Figures show the last six months of 2020 experienced higher numbers of visitors than in previous years, particularly on the Granite Belt, as border closures forced Queenslanders to explore their own backyard.  More than 3,600 extra visitors stopped in at the region’s visitor information centres between October and December 2020, compared to the same period in 2019 – an increase of almost 75%.

From a 2019 scarred by drought and bushfires to a 2020 all but shut down by COVID-19, visitor figures showed great potential for the region heading into the first few months of 2021.

The excellent visitor numbers carried over as the region saw its first sunflower crops in two years. The sunflower trend shows no signs of slowing, with more than 1,200 sunflower queries through the Warwick Visitor Information Centre in December and January alone. The first mention of sunflowers posted to Council’s Southern Downs and Granite Belt Facebook page on 19 November 2020 reached more than 130,000 people.

Southern Downs Councillor Stephen Tancred said the visitor numbers were a great sign for the region.

“I think people have either discovered or rediscovered the Southern Downs and Granite Belt since COVID-19 changed our lives early last year. It made people see what delights were available closer to home,” he said.

“They’ve seen how beautiful and diverse our region is and what it has to offer. More people are planning holidays and our great events are bringing people out here as well.”

In January, nearly 20% of tickets registered for Warwick’s Great Australian Bites festival came from outside the region to sample the tastes, sights and sounds of the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.

This weekend, Stanthorpe’s annual Australian Busking Championships will see an influx of visitors head south to take in some of the best musical talent from this region and beyond as they compete for more than $6,500 in cash and prizes.

For tourism and events information across the region, please visit www.southerndownsandgranitebelt.com.au 

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