Why are tourism operators in Airlie Beach so devastated right now? - Sharon Smallwood

Mon 25 May 2020

Podcast Audio

Sharon Smallwood from the Charter Boat Industry Association talks to John Nayler from Deja.vu Magazine about the impact that the current COVID-19 travel restrictions is having on the Tourism Operators in Airlie Beach.

With Stage 2 in Queensland coming into play on 12 June, the effects will still be felt across the Whitsundays with travel only being allowed within a 250-kilometre radius. If you live in SE Queensland there is a pool of people that can be accessed however, if you live in the Whitsundays that tourist pool is vastly different by comparison. The Tourism Operators in Airlie Beach are feeling very frustrated and that is an understatement! They have been very respectful knowing that they are presented with a 2 edged sword combining a health and economic crisis.

With regards to the health advice, it is safe for someone in Brisbane to access a volume of people within a 250-kilometre radius come June 12. It is impossible for the Whitsunday region to access that same volume of people within this radius. They need the distance expanded to be able to reach that many people. If it is safe for one region why not for all?  The lock-down measures have denied Queenslanders access to Airlie Beach for months now, let alone the border closures. The Whitsunday relies on the Tourism trade all year round. The Marine Sectors are completely shut down and it is costing in outgoings 2.6 million dollars per month to keep the boats, offices, staff and businesses going. Government subsidy has helped and is appreciated however, there are a large number of casual staff employed who do not qualify for the Jobkeeper payments. They have no money coming to them and/or have left town.

With the transition of Stage 2 into Stage 3 being implemented within the June school holidays, this will have no positive financial impact on the region, with only 3 days of school holidays falling within this period. Sharon says the Tourism Operators desperately need help!

In comparison, Sharon explains that their counterparts in Cairns received a 3.7 million dollar lifeline back in February 2020. They were given a 100% 6 month reprieve on their berthing fees. The operators in Airlie Beach have approached the Queensland Government for the same type of reprieve which has not been forthcoming at this stage. Yet another knock-back to the struggling economy of the Whitsundays.  This region only recently got back on their feet after the devastation of Cyclone Debbie which hit the coastline in March 2017.

Another very significant factor impeding on the financials of the Tour Operators in Airlie Beach, is that some Booking Agents who are still in operation, are holding onto millions of dollars that are due and payable to the Operators.

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. This region is a major tourist destination and injects millions of dollars into the Queensland economy every year. There seems little or no relief to this region now or in the foreseeable future if our Queensland Government does not take action. #openqld.Australians denied Whitsunday holidays

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