One of Australia’s most-loved tourist destinations is pleading for more government support after it lost more than $5 million in bookings in just 72 hours.
The closure of the Queensland border to Greater Sydney’s five million residents on Saturday delivered a huge blow to businesses in The Whitsundays, just after they had started to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year.
Tourism Whitsundays and 13 other industry bodies have sent a letter to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asking for help in the form of funding, a dedicated marketing fund and a fast-tracked approvals process for the Whitsunday Skyway Project.
Chief Executive Officer Tash Wheeler said the group would also like to see the eligibility criteria relaxed so more regional businesses could access the state government’s $10,000 coronavirus grant.
Ms Wheeler said some operators were missing out because they had one or two more staff than were allowed.
“These are businesses we should be investing in,” she said.
Ms Wheeler said 40 tourism operators – consisting of island resorts, marine tour groups and hotels – lost 45 per cent of business overnight after the state government declared Greater Sydney a COVID-19 hotspot.
“Border closures are unavoidable and if that’s what needs to happen from a health perspective we understand that,” she said.
“But this is about how these businesses are expected to survive this.”
The actual loss in venue is expected to be much higher as hundreds of businesses were affected.
Tourism in The Whitsundays has suffered blow after blow in recent years.
Ms Wheeler said some businesses had only reopened in 2019, two years after the category four system tore down the Queensland coast.
“Since then we’ve had a spate of crisis after crisis,” she said.
In some good news, Queenslanders appeared to have taken note of the state’s new tourism campaign that it is “good to go”.
Ms Wheeler said locals had been travelling to The Whitsundays in droves.
“Queenslanders are certainly backing Queensland and we’re so grateful for it,” she said.
“But there is only so much that Queensland can fill.”