Room bookings in free fall during rugby’s big weekend
IN A normal year the phone at the Great Divide Motor Inn would ring hot with people desperate for a room during the O'Callaghan Cup weekend.
But not so this year.
The venue, like motels and hotels across Toowoomba, will be near empty after the cup's organisers put strict limitations on attendance, fearing a COVID-19 outbreak.
Only the players, a handful of their family members, officials and about 200 student supporters will be allowed at the game.
This is well below the 6000-8000 who usually pack the stands to see Toowoomba Grammar and Downlands College duke it out.
Deslie Evans manages the Great Divide Motor Inn and said the drop in bookings was another blow in an already dire year for the tourism sector.
"April and May were disastrous," Ms Evans said
"I took a 50 per cent pay cut to help the owners out and we had picked up with June and July back to normal.
"But since Melbourne and Sydney COVID-19 cases spiked it has gone dead again."
The drop in income means the pressure is on for Carnival of Flowers, but bookings for that period are stubbornly low.
Toowoomba Regional Council environment and community chair James O'Shea said the public health risk from COVID was a serious drain on the city's tourism sector, but he hoped events like O'Callaghan Cup and the Carnival of Flowers would help in the longer term.
"Once we get through COVID-19 we will see people travelling again," he said.
"Next year we could be looking at some massive crowds that will help stimulate the economy."