Regional Wedding Tourism Crying out for Certainty

Member for Toowoomba South David Janetzki with members of the regional wedding industry

Hundreds of couples from around Australia and across the world are attracted to Toowoomba’s iconic wedding venues every year.

Between them Gabbinbar Homestead and Preston Peak draw approximately 75% of this valuable tourism market, but like so many regional businesses they are struggling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally Gabbinbar Homestead hosts 200 destination weddings each year employing over 50 staff and supporting 150 small businesses such as photographers and florists.

Additionally, local short stay accommodation providers benefit as wedding guests fill an average of 500 rooms a week.

Gabbinbar Homestead owner Isaac Moody says this type of high value tourism requires a high level of planning.  However, state government indecision over border closures, which were initially due to end in July but are now slated to end in September, are hampering wedding tourism recovery efforts.

“You can’t have the Premier wave her magic wand on Sunday and expect us to open the following day”, Mr Moody said.

“Our clients have interstate guests and they are not prepared to commit to their wedding date without the certainty that their guests can confidently book flights and accommodation and take time off work,” he said.

Preston Peak director Rick Osborne has more than 175 functions booked over the next 12 months and said a clear road map is essential for local operators.

“The majority of our weddings and functions involve people travelling to the region, with the local wedding market bringing millions into the local economy”, Mr Osborne said.

“It will take time to ramp up again and that is why a clear road map to recovery is essential,” he said.

Member for Toowoomba South David Janetzki said local businesses and couples required certainty.

“Local businesses understood wedding restrictions were a necessary sacrifice needed to save lives, however, with the Queensland infection rate so low it’s time to plan for a workable re-opening of this important tourism driver in our region”, Mr Janetzki said.

“We must remain vigilant and prepared, but it’s also time for us to give couples the opportunity to reschedule their weddings and allow them more than a handful of guests”, he said.

To mitigate the risk of COVID-19, the Queensland wedding industry has also proposed a carefully considered six-point plan so that operators can realistically begin to take bookings of around 100 guests from mid-July.

The plan commits to:

  • Collecting, and keeping, all guests’ names and contact details 7 days prior to the event.
  • Encouraging guests to download and activate the COVIDSafe app.
  • Each guest having their temperature taken at the venue on arrival.
  • Applying strict hygiene protocols with respect to hand sanitising and hard surface cleaning

No response from the Premier or state government has been received.