The new backpackers’ gateway to Fraser Island.
The new backpackers’ gateway to Fraser Island. Renee Pilcher

'Has-been Bay' vs 'Rainbow Boom'

THE secret is out, at last.

Rust belt tourism centre, Hervey Bay, is a thing of the past with younger visitors.

And the Gympie Region's Rainbow Beach - with its surf, coloured sands and beaches that go on forever - has suddenly emerged for youthful travellers as the fashionable new gateway to Fraser Island.

"I'm not surprised," Commerce and Tourism Association president Scott Elms said yesterday, "except by the fact that it's taken so long."

He was responding to news that Hervey Bay's once thriving backpacker industry is suffering, with news from Nomads Fraser Island Tours that all its operations will now come out of Rainbow Beach, with pre and post tour accommodation supplied by local backpackers resorts.

"I was up (at Hervey Bay) years ago and there was a backpackers on every corner," Mr Elms said.

"Now there's none you'd notice."

General store operator Ruth Modin welcomed the news.

"Rainbow loves them, they're very important to the community," she said.

"It's lovely to have lots of young people on the beach and having surf lessons. It gives life.

"They've given us support when other tourism numbers are down. Everybody benefits."

Progress Association and Community Hall Association president Sandy Brosnan said: "I think it's wonderful. Bring it on. We've got proximity to the island and we've got the best beaches on the eastern seaboard of Australia."

Baker and fishing tourism operator Tony Stewart, of Baitrunner, said he was always glad to see good news for the local economy.

"As far as I'm concerned, Rainbow is the gateway to Fraser, it's only a six to eight-minute barge trip and Rainbow's got a lot more going for it."

Hervey Bay backpacker resort manager Mark Juppenlatz acknowledged the new tourism reality.

"Just about every major player in the backpacking market is now operating in Rainbow Beach," he said.

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