Cheryle Becker’s out of home life has for years revolved around the management of Boonah’s busy Visitor Information Centre.
And since the Covid-19 restrictions led to the temporary closure of the purpose-built cottage in Bicentennial Park, she says her life is not so different than it was before.
The ‘VIC’ is one of more than 100 accredited centres around Queensland which help travellers and visitors with information about the local places they can visit as well as brochures, maps and other necessary info from areas around Queensland and interstate.
“I still go down to the VIC to top up the map and brochure stand located on the verandah. I live in town so it’s easy enough to do that and there’s still work that has to be done inside the building.
“I don’t open the doors but as part of our accreditation there’s still information that has to be sent in.”
Cheryle says she doesn’t go down to the VIC as often now but when she does there’s lots to do.
“Boxes of brochures and maps are still arriving from other centres which have to be collected to name just one thing I do.
“And I while I’m working inside, I answer the phone if it rings.”
Every month, Cheryle tallies the number of visitors who have called into the VIC to access information from one of the volunteers or to pick up a brochure or buy one of the locally made products which are displayed on the shelves.
“This week, I was looking over the visitor numbers in the last six months and it made me really stop and think,” Cheryle says.
“In October our numbers were up compared to the previous year.
“But numbers in the last five months have been down significantly when compared to previous years.
“In November our numbers were down due to the drought and the heatwave conditions.
“In December our numbers were down due to the bushfires.
“In January our numbers were down due to flooding.
“And in February and March our numbers were down due to the Coronavirus.
“Absolutely crazy isn’t it?”
Cheryle added that there was a noticeable change in the reason people were travelling in the weeks before the restrictions came into force and the VIC doors were shut.
“On the last day we were open, a man from Algester called in. He was in his 80s and he and his wife were staying in the honeymoon suite in one of the local accommodation places.
“They had booked to stay for three or four days but were then hoping to stay until after the restrictions were lifted. One of the reasons was the beautiful countryside. Another was that he loved going to the IGA where no one was wearing masks, there was no fighting and there was still plenty of food on the shelves.
“He says he was going to let all his friends know about this wonderful place.”
There were also calls from people wanting to know if the National Parks were open or whether you could still go up to Lake Moogerah.
“People from Brisbane and the Gold Coast were looking for somewhere safer and where there was lots of open space.
“I think there will be a new appreciation of all we have to offer out here when all the travel restrictions are lifted.”