Cafe owner Craig Johnston says slow trade has been “really sad and upsetting”. (ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)
A scare campaign about traffic congestion has left traders out of pocket during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the Small Business Association of Australia (SBAA) says.
Nobby’s Beach cafe owner Craig Johnston said the business bonanza that was promised had not eventuated.
“It’s been pretty slow from Easter all the way through the Games — it’s probably down 30 per cent on normal and about 50 to 60 per cent down on where we were expecting and told it’d be at,” Mr Johnston said.
“We were told get ready for the Games — it’s going to be madness.
“We put extra staff on and extra stock and now we’re having to reduce people’s hours heavily.
“Everyone’s got families to feed — the money just isn’t there for them at the moment unfortunately — it’s really sad and upsetting.”
SBAA chief executive Anne Nalder said the campaign had driven locals and visitors away from the tourist capital.
“There’s signage all up and down the motorway — ‘stay away, keep away, get your staff to take holidays’ — that is a scare campaign, because we thought we were going to be inundated with masses of people, which has not eventuated,” she said.
“The Gold Coast copes with larger crowds that this at Christmas time, Easter time, so why they have gone over the top, I have no idea.”
She said Games organisers should run an advertising campaign to encourage people to visit the Gold Coast during the Games, but it might be too late.
“Small business owners have lost money — they can’t make up that money — they have to pay their bills, they have to pay staff, they have had to reduce staff,” she said.
“That’s all a cost factor, but who is going to compensate them for that?”
Ms Nalder said the SBAA would survey members after the Games to calculate their losses.
But Transport Minister Mark Bailey has rejected suggestions that scaremongering about traffic congestion had driven people away from the Gold Coast during the Games.
Mr Bailey said his department was very responsible in its messaging ahead of the Games.
“What other people and outlets did with that messaging is a matter for them, but we have always said we have a very strong transport plan based on evidence, what we have seen,” he said.
“Remember, people [were] saying the heavy rail would be a disaster, the M1 would be a disaster.
“Both of them are working like clockwork but we need people to keep using public transport because we have some of our heaviest load days coming this week.”
Mr Bailey said authorities had acted responsibly in promoting the use of public transport.
‘Could’ve been a nice holiday at home’
Rhiannon Carlan said she was leaving the Gold Coast to go to Lennox Head in northern New South Wales for a holiday.
Rhiannon Carlan and Juca Carlan are heading to Lennox Head in NSW for a holiday. (ABC News: Ashleigh Stevenson)
She said she probably would not have booked the holiday if she had known the Gold Coast would be so quiet.
“It’s been really quiet around here at Mermaid Beach,” Ms Carlan said.
“Lots of business, cafes and restaurants that are fairly quiet.
“We just didn’t know how it’d go, so we planned to move and get out of here.
“We wanted to take the precaution and go somewhere quieter.
“It’s kind of nice around town, not having to fight the traffic, so it could’ve been a nice holiday at home.”
Vacancies remain for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games . (Supplied: Tourism and Events Queensland)
But Tourism Minister Kate Jones said it was expected that larger crowds would now come to the Gold Coast.
“I’ve spent every day talking to retailers, shops and restaurants across the Gold Coast first-hand to get that message universally [with] people are telling me that it’s picking up,” she said.
“Certainly this week with the athletics starting, the Rugby 7s on the weekend, we do expect to see larger crowds and more people out in restaurants.
“I was out after the swimming on Saturday night … this place is humming — anyone that is out at night after the events is seeing that each night more and more people are coming out.”
GOLDOC chairman Peter Beattie has encouraged locals to come back to the Gold Coast.
“If you’ve left and you’ve made the mistake of missing the greatest event of your lifetime, come back and go to your local restaurants,” Mr Beattie said.