Australia — THE flames have gone out, but for North Stradbroke Island, there are fears a bumper tourism season has also been extinguished.
Straddie was set for its best holiday period in decades before massive bushfires caused more than 1000 people to flee the island at the start of the year.
Now local tourism operators are begging for visitors to return.
School holiday visitors make up most of many island businesses’ annual income and some are down by 50 per cent on their usual summer trade.
Straddie chamber of commerce president David Thomson said the impact of the fires had been threefold.
“We had 1000 people evacuated, which hurt and then we had people cancel their bookings and then we have also had people who would have been thinking about coming here decide to go somewhere else,” he said.
“The perception is that the place was virtually destroyed, but it didn’t affect any property or infrastructure.
“We need people to know Straddie is still open for business.”
The Little Ship Club is one of Dunwich’s best watering holes and on a typical summer day there would be 100 people in the beer garden.
When The Courier-Mail visited last week there were just three.
Manager Alison Ninnes said the fire had burnt a huge hole in the club’s holiday takings.
“We usually do five weeks of awesome trade over summer, but since the fires our tourist numbers have been pretty much wiped out,” she said.
“We live for the holidays because it’s about the only time we get good visitor numbers and we’re down about $100,000-$130,000.
“And it was set to be a really bumper year.”
Catherine Eckersley, 17, has been holidaying on the island with family for the past three weeks and said it was eerie how quiet it had been since the fires.
“There’s been a lot less people around, that’s for sure,” Ms Eckersley said.