27 March, 2020
Tourist travels cut short
IT MIGHT have set a new record - an outback tour that lasted just one night.
“Welcome to Longreach - enjoy your very short stay”
Eighteen tourists landed in Longreach on Sunday after a lengthy bus trip only to be told they would have to leave town the following morning.
They were all looking forward to a relaxing vacation in outback Queensland to escape the pandemonium stemming from COVID-19, but it was the government-imposed coronavirus restrictions that cut their holiday short.
When they got off the bus at the Longreach Railway Station on Sunday the travellers were asked to sanitise their hands and stand one and a half metres apart. That’s when Alan and Sue Smith, owners of tourism company Outback Aussie Tours, broke the news to them - the trip had been cancelled.
Mrs Smith said they had to pass on the information contained in the recently-announced government directives in relation to coronavirus. Because of that they had no choice but to cancel the group’s tour of the region and send them back to their homes the following morning.
“The decision to send the tourists back home via The Spirit of the Outback train was not an easy one to make and was not good news for anyone,” Mrs Smith said. “Obviously our business will be affected by this loss of income, and although it was tough on them, many of the travellers were understanding and wanted to help ensure the safety of the region.
“They were told to leave Monday morning as soon as they got off the bus on Sunday. Eighteen were forced to go back to south-eastern areas like Brisbane, Gold Coast and Wollongong but they were all really understanding.
“There are big concerns for the region. It’s ironic really. They travelled here to support region following the drought and were disappointed they couldn’t do their bit.”
Many of the elderly travellers were disappointed to hear they would return home sooner than expected, but understood why these precautions are in place and wanted to assure everyone that they would return as soon as they were able.
“It is such a pretty town. I wish we could stay longer.” an elderly couple said.
“We are a little bit disappointed but there is not much we can do,” a group of female travellers said. “We were looking forward to experience the area. We’ll probably come back again.”
While the travellers won’t get to visit the region this time, many saw a silver-lining as they got to travel home on The Spirit of the Outback, saying they were looking forward to the first class service, great food and relaxing atmosphere.
Although cancellations like this were always disappointing, Mrs Smith said the health and safety of travellers and locals was Outback Aussie Tour’s number one priority. They have had to suspend all tours until mid-2020 at the earliest.
“This is our second tour group for the year, with the first one going ahead prior to government directives,” Mrs Smith said. “We can only go on government directives for the coronavirus.
“The people on this week’s tour were all real characters and it was sad to say goodbye to the group but we have to maintain safety within the community.”