Tourists defy swine flu risk

Not even Australia's first confirmed swine flu case is likely to impact on Noosa’s tourist pulling power.

Especially with young people. They may be the most at risk as they globetrot about without any immunity to the swine flu, but backpackers are not about to stop hitting their favourite destinations like Noosa.

And Tourism Noosa boss Steve Cooper is not surprised the backpacker market is standing up well despite a woman arriving in Brisbane with the potentially deadly infection. The World Health Organisation has warned that the southern hemisphere is ripe for a pandemic as we head into the colder months, which the swine flu may thrive on.

One health expert last week said the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 that arrived in Australia in 1919 and killed more than 20 million people worldwide, started off as a mild virus before mutating into a killer of healthy, younger people.

The Mexico outbreak also likes to target the young according to the WHO. But Mr Cooper said most backpackers are of an age when they think they are impervious to everything.

But even the more cautious types would still be encouraged to come to Noosa.

Mr Cooper said Noosa’s tourist sector was able to weather the SARS epidemic of a few years back fairly comfortably as well.

And this is supported by local bookings as a pocket of tourism operators in Noosa are seemingly unfazed by the swine flu panic sweeping across the state’s tourism industry.

While some groups have voiced concerns about travellers’ growing fear of boarding international flights, Noosa can rest assured its market is largely made up of interstate visitors at this time of year.

Young Noosa-bound backpackers have not shied away from travelling, despite more confirmed cases of the flu around the globe.

Koala Bar manager Hugo Gildenhuyf said European travellers made up a large percentage of the current occupancy at the popular hostel.

Mr Gildenhuyf said it was hard to determine how much difference the swine flu scare had made on tourism as this month was traditionally the slowest in the year.

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