Schoolboys on the cusp, with Surfers Paradise being the ‘dominant’ destination

The countdown to the biggest party of the year has begun, and the Gold Coast tourism industry is counting on its huge success.

Schools in Queensland are set to continue next month, despite the development of the coronavirus situation in the southeast of the state.

Volunteer group Red Frogs says there are “contingency plans,” but it expects thousands of school leavers to descend on Surfers Paradise after last year’s event was canceled.

Patricia O’Callaghan, chief executive of the Gold Coast tourist destination, says local businesses are “exceptionally dependent” on the highly successful event after the massive economic hits from the pandemic.

after, after A tough year for Gold Coast tourism, operators hope that hordes of teens who have finished school will help the stricken industry get back on its feet.

Teens’ hopes for the economy

Ms O’Callaghan said schools have played an important role in the Gold Coast’s economy.

“We’d like to see school leavers go out, move around, and spend on a massive scale.”

Feelings have been divided among operators in popular destinations like the Gold Coast for years.

The Schoolies program is an important event in the area’s calendar, says Patricia O’Callaghan, chief executive of the Gold Coast tourist destination.(

ABC News: Tara Cassidy

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Andy Gurley, founder and director of peer support organization Red Frogs Australia, said companies have traditionally been reluctant to host schools, after widespread media attention to bad behaviour, including destroy the beaches and hotel rooms.

He said businesses are now more receptive to the idea, with many hotels switching to a “schools only” model this week.

“The industry here is really suffering,” Gurley said.

He said there has been a shift in behavior and culture among the youth.

“It’s chalk and cheese – our workers got off their feet 10 years ago,” he said.

Party-goers’ choice at Surfers Paradise

Last year, canceled school events saw some school leavers take their program Special celebrations in other regions Around the state including Noosa and Airlie Beach.

Gurley said the Gold Coast was set to be a favorite destination for partygoers this year.

“The vast majority certainly [go to] “Surfers Paradise and that’s where all the infrastructure is built,” Gurley said.

Teenagers in Surfers Paradise at night in 2013.
Volunteers say Schoolies is experiencing a “cultural change” and it may be “swapping beer for Boost Juices.”(

ABC News: Damian Larkins

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“All organizations have such a good setup these days… [Surfers Paradise] It is one of the safest places to go.”

But the closures and creeping COVID case numbers mean Schoolies will be a “weekly decision.”

Ms O’Callaghan said last year’s unpredictability had prepared companies for flexible arrangements.

She said, “You can wake up in the morning and things will change…it just takes every day as it comes.”

A man on a skateboard with a beer in hand
Cavill Avenue is traditionally filled with school alumni during the week-long event.(

ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale

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A spokesperson for Schoolies.com said it was “highly doubtful” that international students would be able to attend the Queensland events, but said they hoped in-state school dropouts would be able to join the party.

The Minister for Youth Affairs, Megan Scanlon, said planning for schools is ongoing, and will be in line with health advice around the COVID-19 pandemic.

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