Gold Coast visitor numbers dive amid lockdowns, border closures

Passenger numbers at Gold Coast Airport have plummeted as lockdowns and border closures once again cripple the city’s tourism sector.

After a horror 2020, things had picked up earlier this year with the airport operating at around 80 per cent of pre-COVID capacity.

But with Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in lockdown, the situation has become bleak with the airport now back to around 10 per cent of capacity before the pandemic hit.


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“We saw about 60 flights in and out each day in May but that’s really dropped away. Yesterday we had about 15 flights coming into the airport and today we’ve got about 13,” Queensland Airports CEO Chris Mills said.

“So we’re dropping back to the sorts of number that we saw last year.”

The airport was on track to get back to 100 per cent capacity this month but Mr Mills concedes that’s now a long way off.

The airport has been further hit with the announcement on Friday that New Zealand was suspending the Trans-Tasman travel bubble with all of Australia for at least the next eight weeks.

The news comes just days after Gold Coast Airport celebrated the return of direct flights between the Glitter Strip and Queenstown ahead of the ski season.

Read more: Trans-Tasman travel bubble suspended, Kiwis urged to get home

Mr Mills says the difference this time is the industry doesn’t have the benefit of assistance from the Federal Government.

“We know the lack of passengers flows on to the thousands of tourism businesses in the city that were counting on a busy July holiday period.

“The numbers we are seeing now are reminiscent of last year, but this time businesses no longer have the support of JobKeeper.

“Tourism and aviation needs a clear plan to keep domestic borders open, and strong support to restart activity. At the moment, when the current lockdowns end and borders reopen, there is still no certainty that they will stay open.”

Mr Mills has called for clear timelines and targets on vaccination levels to allow borders to reopen and stay open saying confidence has taken a huge hit.

“Earlier this year half-priced tickets were launched which brought some confidence back to the market .. but that confidence is disappearing as people are stranded and as people lose money on their bookings. “