LIV EINEMO TOENJUM AND STAFF WRITERS
Binna Burra Lodge is open again almost a year after the original lodge was destroyed by bushfire, thanks to a strong brand and a concentrated recovery effort.
The Lamington National Park ecotourism destination, which had been in operation for close to 90 years when it was burnt to ashes on September 8 last year, opened again for business on September 1.
Binna Burra Lodge chairman Steve Noakes said bookings at the rebuilt lodge so far were “very strong”.
Mr Noakes said 18 Sky Lodges with views across the Coomera and Numinbah Valleys, as well as the Bushwalker’s Bar, the campground and the new bushfire gallery were now open at the Binna Burra property.
He said the Tea House would also open at the location very soon.
“Demand has been strong as people want to come back to enjoy the Lamington National Park and also support the recovery efforts of Binna Burra,” Mr Noakes said.
Griffith Institute for Tourism deputy director Dr Sarah Gardiner said Binna Burra were able to rebuild their brand after the bushfire disaster by sharing the recovering process with the public via both social media and the mainstream media.
“To support the redevelopment of the destination, you need to have a strong brand, and you need to be able to create a brand that people are attracted to following a disaster rather just concentrating on the disaster itself,” Dr Gardiner said.
She said the rebuilding of Binna Burra Lodge had been a “great example of disaster recovery” in the region.
“People have a really strong connection to Binna Burra, and many have a story to tell about their past visits there,” Dr Gardiner said.
“The disaster provides the opportunity to reflect on the value associated with this particular place, and as it reopened, they have the opportunity to re-experience the destination,” she said.
Mr Noakes said the Binna Burra Lodge intentionally clicked into response and recovery mode immediately after the heritage lodge and cabins were destroyed, by consistently being available for the media.
“We always made ourselves available to the media outlets and saw them as partners in our recovery communications strategy,” Mr Noakes said.
“As we were the first major destruction in what became a significant six-month national bushfire season, a lot of local, state, national and international media reported our disaster,” he said.
Binna Burra Lodge holds the enviable status of being the first Australian property to attain the internationally-recognised Green Globe Certification for its best practice environmental performance, and was listed in Smarter Travel’s list of top ecolodges and green hotels in the world.
Guests can enjoy a range of activities including hiking, bird watching and abseiling, while the Lodge itself focuses on sustainability and environmental initiatives by incorporating practices such as recycling, composting, low-flow water fixtures and the use of energy-efficient lighting.
Dr Johanna Nalau is a Gold Coast based adaptation scientist with a PhD in climate change adaptation who is interested in how, why and when people make decisions to adapt to climate change.
Dr Nalau said due to COVID-19 and increased demand for local tourism, many people had chosen to travel to local destinations such as Binna Burra because they were easy to access and offered a range of experiences.
“There is also more acknowledgement [by the public] of sustainability aspects and ecotourism, and in the future being an ecotourism destination is going to be a drawcard when people are looking to where to go,” Dr Nalau said.
“Operators can learn from Binna Burra a number of lessons, including how to engage communities in recovery efforts, how to leverage funding from diverse sources, and how to embed sustainability at the core of tourism operators,” she said.
Mr Noakes said the Lodge had a long history and many repeat visitors, as well as its own non-for-profit organisation, Friends of Binna Burra, which enabled volunteers to work together to preserve the special beauty of the location.
“Binna Burra has been around almost 90 years, so [it] has many thousands of past customers who connect with the ‘spirit of Binna Burra’,” he said.
Brisbane resident and architect Emma Scragg is a long-time Binna Burra guest.
“I’ve been visiting Binna Burra since I first moved to Brisbane in 1983 and we went to visit just as we arrived in Brisbane having travelled from the Adelaide Hills,” Ms Scragg said.
“We continued to go there as a family when I was a teenager and I went on to do the overland track between O’Reilly’s and Binna Burra [as an adult] and stayed at the Lodge a few times, enjoying the comfortable accommodation and the huge feast they put on,” she said.
“I also worked as a conservation architect during the conservation and management plan of the Binna Burra Lodge about 10 years ago, which sadly has all gone except for Groom’s Cottage.”
Brisbane resident Kirsten Maclean is another former guest who has fond memories of spending time at Binna Burra Lodge with her husband and two children.
“We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have spent two nights in the oldest cabin at Binna Burra and did so only a few months before it was burnt down,” Ms Maclean said.
“The fires were certainly devastating, and I have been amazed at the speed with which the Binna Burra team have worked to re-open parts of the Lodge,” she said.
“No doubt they will be inundated with booking requests and visitors as the many Binna Burra-lovers return to the rainforest destination.”
For more information about Binna Burra Lodge, visit www.binnaburralodge.com.au.