Dr Elena Konovalov is a tourism expert with CQUniversity’s Centre for Regional Tourism and Opportunities. Her research interests include sustainable tourism, community wellbeing, and digital innovation in the sector.
Need a holiday? I know the feeling.
This year was supposed to be my big year of international travel. Before 2020 had even started, I had three exciting overseas trips booked, all my annual leave used, and I was happily researching and planning what to see and do when I got there.
And then, coronavirus. Of course there are many many worse impact of global pandemic, and I’m counting myself lucky in so many ways. But with the first two of my trips (to Japan with my best friend, then Istanbul and Barcelona with my mum) definitely not happening, and the third one (to Hawaii in November) under a big question mark, my calendar and passport suddenly look very empty.
Luckily, travel is my expertise as well as my passion. My research with CQUni focuses on tourism, how and why we do it, and all the ways it impacts our communities. And across Australia, communities that rely on tourism have never needed us more.
I’ve lived in Townsville for 18 years, moving here from my home in Siberia, Russia. That’s definitely long enough to make me a Townsville local – but now, I’m determined to see North Queensland with new eyes, and become a tourist in my own backyard.
And with international travel off the cards for many months yet, I’m challenging all Australians to do the same.
Where to start?
Do you know how the city you live in was established? Who are the traditional custodians of the area? How often do you get out of your daily routine and take the ‘scenic’ route around town, driving through unknown streets or suburbs when going out for groceries?
I’ve found just a few small questions and habit changes can kickstart exploring your region, especially as COVID-19 travel restrictions limit us to our local area.
Something as small as finding a new café or restaurant for takeaways (and hopefully dining in soon!), or spotting a new view of your local attractions, gives that feeling of discovery and excitement – and don’t forget to share it on social media, too!
What about local wineries and breweries? Have you visited local bookstores, art galleries, museum, botanical garden, park, handmade craft store, massage parlour, day spa, farmers market lately? With current restrictions slowly lifting, now is the perfect time to start making a “travel bucket list” – not of global destinations, but for backyard attractions you’ve never quite had time for.
Take a road trip
When we can go further afield, it’s time to get out the map (or Google Maps works just as well!)
How many National Parks are in around your region? A good way to start exploring is with local bushwalking or hiking clubs – and most have social media accounts or Facebook groups with information about getting involved. Around here, there’s the Townsville Bushwalking Club, Rockclimbers Association of North Queensland, Townsville Hike and Explore social group, Wanderstories Adventure community Facebook group, and many others. I’ve personally discovered few local hidden gems after joining those groups – and still have quite a few hikes in the area on my to-do list.
If you can afford it, what about all those touristy things in your area that people come from the other side of the world to do? Virtually every region in Australia is a tourism destination, the country is just that beautiful – lucky us!
In North Queensland, it’s the Great Barrier Reef and many stunning tropical islands that are on every ‘must visit’ lists for international travellers. When my couple of weeks of annual leave in late July arrives, I may finally complete that driving course that I always wanted to do, and organise a girls getaway for a few days on one of the islands with my girlfriends (if restrictions allow it by then – hopefully!)
Most importantly of all, be curious about the place you call home. Plan local adventures like you’d develop a European itinerary, be awestruck by somewhere new like you crossed the globe to get there! Meet new locals, make new friends, help strangers, be kind and enjoy all the best things about living where you live.
Do not keep it all to yourself either! Becoming your local destination promoter can inspire others to come visit. Once the pandemic is over, we’re all going to be in the same boat – ready for a holiday!
So share all the new, wonderful, quirky discoveries you make on social media – I’ve been putting mine on Facebook and Instagram for years! (Hint: find out the local tourism hashtags to make sure other explorers see them! For example, in Townsville they are #townsvilleshines, #tropicalcoastqueensland, #exploretnq, #thisisqueenslad, #seeaustralia. And don’t forget to tag the great tourism businesses who might have helped you explore.)
I hope that after reading all of the above you feel inspired to #holidaywhereyoulive. It will feel even more special knowing that your adventures help your local community to recover from this tough time.
Happy local holidays everyone!