‘A-maze-ing’ attraction powers on despite struggles
THEY'RE in the business of finding a way, and that's exactly what a family-owned Sunshine Coast attraction has done during a challenging period for the state's tourism industry.
Bellingham Maze has operated in the region for more than 26 years, bringing in children and retirees alike to its winding grounds.
Adam Cheshire bought the business along with wife Robyn in 2018 and said the "iconic" destination was a must-do for tourists in the region.
"During school holidays, about 70 per cent of our business is tourists, and outside of that it does drop down a little bit, but you're probably talking around 40 to 50 per cent still," he said.
"At the moment, we're putting a lot of time, money and energy into it which I think is doing a lot for it as well."
Following a horrific bushfire season across the country and a worldwide battle against the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Cheshire said the business had recorded a change in visitor numbers.
"December I don't think was really affected by it. We didn't really see any change to our visitor numbers or volume then," he said.
"January, we did, but we saw only a marginal drop in visitor numbers. In fact, we had a marginal increase in visitor spend."
Yet Mr Cheshire said the beginning of February was one of the maze's slowest starts to the month on record.
"February is traditionally the quietest month of the year for us and for any tourism operator," he said.
"I think all the kids are going back to school, everyone has run out of money from Christmas … so it's always quiet.
"(But this) February was a tougher start and I think that's largely to do with the bushfire season.
"Talking to other tourism operators, especially some of the larger ones that do keep statistics, I think everyone felt the same way."
Although operators are expecting a dip in international tourists due to the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Cheshire said the slow period could work in some businesses' favour.
"I'm an optimist at heart and I've been putting a lot of thought into what the impact of the coronavirus could have on our family, but also our business," he said.
"I think people are going to be more likely to be looking at staycations rather than travelling overseas, so I think that could actually have a positive impact on us.
"February has actually picked up through this back end … so people are still getting out and about. It's looking great for us."