Opposition leader David Crisafulli has unleashed on Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe for calling on NSW residents to cancel holidays, saying he “just doesn’t get it”.
Mr Hinchliffe has been recalled from holidays to deal with a growing tourism crisis in the wake of border closures because of a coronavirus outbreak in NSW.
Mr Hinchliffe said any Sydneysiders who were unable to make it to Queensland should immediately cancel to allow locals to snap up bargains, a comment that has rankled LNP leader Mr Crisafulli.
Queensland closed its borders on Tuesday and is denying entry to anyone who has visited or resides in greater Sydney or the city’s northern beaches.
The hard border closure will continue until at least January 8.
“I ask those from interstate to keep the faith,” Mr Crisafulli said.
“The stupidity we heard today is not reflective of what the industry is saying.
“You can ask anyone in the industry; no one is telling anyone from Sydney to cancel their bookings.
“That shows a guy who just doesn’t get it and if he’s not going to defend Queensland tourism, I am.”
Mr Hinchliffe suggested many accommodations booked by people from greater Sydney were in destinations “now hard to find” and tour operators should be flexible with refunds when possible.
“We’re expecting strong interest from interstate and Queensland holiday-makers in snapping up cancelled bookings from greater Sydney,” Mr Hinchliffe said on Tuesday.
Mr Crisafulli said the Palaszczuk government needed to keep referring to that date when discussing border closures and not send mixed messages about potentially keeping the border closed beyond January 8.
“I ask the state government … certainly not to tell people to cancel their holidays,” he said.
“You’ve got a date that the Health Minister said they will review things; don’t send mixed messages beyond that date.
“That still gives us almost all of January, all of February (for people to travel).”
He said in light of no international tourism and restrictions on interstate travel, Queenslanders should consider holidaying at home or up in the north or west of the state.
“My message is that if you have the capacity holiday in Queensland and that may mean staying in the city you live,” he said.
Mr Hinchliffe had his holiday leave cut short on Wednesday, two days after he checked out for Christmas.
A spokesman told The Courier-Mail that Mr Hinchliffe’s trip was to “host meetings with tourism industry stakeholders and Queensland Health”.
Cairns Tourism Industry Association president Kevin Byrne called Mr Hinchliffe’s holiday “disrespectful” to struggling tourism operators.
“For him to go on leave at this crucial time sends a dreadful message to the tourism industry,” he said.
“These guys have been (to) hell and back in the past nine months. And particularly the damage that’s been caused by the on-again, off-again border closures.”