A passion for keeping dollars in Douglas has sparked an innovative idea aimed at helping accommodation businesses in the Shire financially recover from COVID-19.

Douglas Direct is an online platform, an idea by the newly formed Douglas Shire Accommodation Cooperative (DSAC), that hopes to turn the tide on online travel agents and bring power back to the property owner.

Spokesperson for the accommodation cooperative, Bruno Bennett, said their research demonstrates the Shire loses $20 million each year in commissions paid to online travel agents.

“Keeping dollars in Douglas is essential right now, especially when many local businesses are facing a huge task just to keep their doors open.

“It’s the contention of our members that this ever-growing level of commission is bad business and represents old school thinking.

“Our members believe Douglas Shire no longer needs to rely on online travel agents like Expedia and Booking.com to fill rooms,” he said.

The cooperative’s aim is to attract State and Federal funding of $800,000 to create the Douglas Direct website so people can book directly with the property themselves.

Funding will go towards development and design of the platform, on-boarding product information and marketing, which includes a sophisticated SEO strategy to give it the best chance of outranking its competitors.

DSAC has prepared a three-year business plan, including financials.

“With the support of local resorts, self-contained apartments and the many bed and breakfasts dotted throughout the Shire, Douglas Direct is aiming to earn $192,000 in commissions in its first year and build this to $1.4 million by year three,” said Bruno.

“The earnings will be reinvested into the ongoing operation of the website.”

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr has provided a letter of support to the DSAC for the development of the Douglas Direct website.

“We’re facing an estimated 21% drop in Gross Regional Product – compared to 12% Queensland wide,” he said.

“With an economy that is 80% reliant on tourism, Douglas Shire ranks as the most tourism-dependent region in Australia.

“I have no hesitation in recommending projects that help our Shire recover from the pandemic, especially when they direct funds back into the local economy, whilst reigniting tourism in our area.”

The Douglas Shire Accommodation Cooperative Direct is inviting interested accommodation houses to consider becoming a member with annual membership is just $50.

Any operators who are interested in receiving more information are encouraged to contact Al Spence, representing the DSAC on 0458 080 280.