In March this year, when lockdown rules came into force, the impact on tourism in the valley was immediate and, accordingly, Clarence Valley Council (CVC) closed its five holiday parks to non-essential travellers – come September things had improved immensely.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on May 20 that “NSW residents will be able to take a holiday anywhere in NSW from next month, with intra-state travel restrictions to be lifted from Monday 1 June 2020”.
Travellers were encouraged to take recreational trips “as long as they maintain social distancing and good hygiene” and travel they did to the Clarence Valley.
By July, tourist numbers in the Lower Clarence had taken a dramatic upswing; some Yamba business people rated the town’s holiday season as the busiest July on record.
The holiday parks were full, the streets were filled with people and the pubs and clubs were stirring from heir enforced holiday.
“It looks like our holiday-makers’ confidence is back up to 100 per percent,” Yamba Chamber of Commerce president, James Allan, said at the time.
“But I haven’t had the time to go around chatting to other businesses; we’ve been getting smashed here.
“I had a bit of a catch-up with Business NSW and other chambers around the region coastal towns, though, and their stories are much the same, tourists are back from all of the far flung regions around the state.
“It seems pretty positive all around.”
Since then, tourist numbers and weekend visitors have maintained a steady presence, probably exceeding previous years over the same period … and the holiday period in the first fortnight of October was as busy as ever in Yamba.
So, how have Clarence valley Council’s five holiday parks – Brooms Head, Calypso Yamba, Iluka Riverside, Minnie Water and Wooli – fared when compared to the March to September period in 2019?
Holiday Parks & Saleyards officer, Julie Schipp, responded to the Independent’s enquiry via general manager Ashley Lindsay.
“All NSW holiday parks were closed to ‘non-essential travellers’ from 24 March (except Calypso, which was closed completely) and reopened for ‘holiday travel’ on 1 June, just in time for the June long weekend,” she wrote in the emailed response.
“You will notice in the graphs that there was a strong rebound and better than previous occupancy in June for most of the parks.
“This trend has been mixed at the individual parks; however, overall, the parks are performing the same if not better than same period last year for June to September.
“This is a great outcome considering there are no Queensland tourists staying in the parks.
“South east Queensland is traditionally a very strong market for the Clarence Coast Holiday Parks however, we have experienced a surge in NSW first-time visitors to the parks, who are all vowing to return.”