Seven epic reasons to visit the Outback in 2019
THE State Government has declared 2019 the Year of Outback Tourism, in a multimillion-dollar bid to kickstart Queensland's rural heartland.
As the bush battles devastating drought, tourism has emerged as a potential saviour for outback communities.
Domestic holiday-makers visiting the Outback have risen by more than 11 per cent in the past three years, with total visitor numbers expected to crack 1 million for the first time next year.
A $3 million tourism campaign to be launched today will showcase haunting outback landscapes and award-winning attractions.
The Government has already committed $10 million to help finance new attractions, including luxury glamping, five-star artesian baths, a glass-floored bridge across Cobbold Gorge, and a new home for Australia's biggest dinosaur fossil.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said increased tourism would help outback communities brought to their knees by crippling drought.
"The best Christmas present the Outback can get is rain," she said. "We can't make it rain, but we can fill those hotel rooms and camping grounds with tourists.
"Every year the bush comes to the city for the Ekka. Next year, let's return the favour and have a great holiday at the same time out west."
The collapse of many primary producers has had devastating flow-on effects for many rural communities, but centres such as Longreach, Winton and Barcaldine have carved out niche tourism industries with award-winning attractions such as the Qantas Founders Museum, the Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame, and the Age of Dinosaurs museum.
However, Ms Palaszczuk said that was not all the Outback had to offer.
"The Outback is not just about its attractions," she said. "It's the landscape, it's the stars at night, it's the people and their amazing hospitality."
Grants from $1000 up to $100,000 will also be available for events promoters, local governments, community and festival organisations, and local businesses, to help throw out the biggest welcome mat the Outback has seen.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones, who will today launch the 2019 line-up of Outback events, said the increase in visitors over the past three years bode well for the campaign.
"We want to make the most of this fast-growing interest in the Outback, and we know the Year of Outback Tourism will do just that," she said.
German backpackers Lana Reinke, 21, and Leon Wilde, 21, said the Outback was a world away from anything they had ever experienced.
The couple had travelled up Queensland's east coast and decided to head inland.
"It was so quiet," Mr Wilde said. "We have seen all sorts of animals.
"I just love how big and open it is."
Ms Reinke said the artesian baths at Charlotte Plains, near Cunnamulla, offered a beautiful view of the outback sunset.
The borehead on the 60,000ha station was built in 1892, and owner Robyn Russell recently installed bathtubs for guests to enjoy the warm underground water.
2019 OUTBACK EVENT CALENDAR
Julia Creek Dirt n' Dust Festival - April 12-14
Roma's Easter in the Country - April 18-22
2019 Glencore Great Western Games - June 22-30
Winton Outback Film Festival - June 28-July 6
Birdsville Big Red Bash - July 9-11
Mount Isa Mines Rodeo - August 9-11
Cobb & Co Festival (Surat Basin) - August 23-25