MONTHS of persistent lobbying by Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Craig Turner and regional mayor Andrew Willcox has paid off with a landmark funding package.
Tourism infrastructure projects in the Whitsundays will receive $7 million from a joint Federal and Queensland Government rescue initiative to help the industry bounce back from the devastating effects of Debbie in March.
The Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, and the Queensland Minister for Tourism, the Hon Kate Jones MP, announced $4.5 million will be invested in the Whitsundays, Bowen and Lake Proserpine.
An additional $2 million tourism recovery fund is now open to provide grants for projects that will drive tourism to the area, with a further $500,000 allocated to coral propagation research and coral gardening.
Another $3 million is to be used for marketing and hosting media who will help promote the region to the rest of Australia and the world.
Mr Turner said that initially the rescue pot was to be spread throughout the state.
"But we managed to quarantine the whole lot for our region," he said.
"Yes, they may have had lows further south and there might have been rain associated with that, but we were the only destination that got hit by a cyclone."
Mayor Willcox said today the money will help take tourism in the Whitsundays to a whole new level.
"We'll not only be known as an idyllic place to come to have visitation to the reef and islands, but it also now enables us to develop mainland tourism as well," he said.
"There will be something for everybody in the Whitsundays."
The four significant tourism infrastructure projects that have received tourism funding are:
- $2 million for the Hill Inlet Lookout upgrade and expansion on Whitsunday Island. This work will complement the recently announced Queensland Government commitment of $2.78 million for the development of a new 20km walking track connecting Whitehaven Beach to Tongue Point.
- $500 000 to deliver all-weather walking trails with interpretative panels on Border, Langford and Haslewood islands.
- $1 million to deliver new tourism infrastructure at Peter Faust Dam (Lake Proserpine) which will help support new tourism experiences in the region.
- $1 million to enhance the existing facilities on Flagstaff Hill in Bowen to support the delivery of Indigenous tourism activities, festivals, cooking classes and farmers markets.
Mr Turner said all the money needs to be spent by December 2019, and he's keen to expedite the process.
"The last thing want is this to be tied up in bureaucracy. We want to get this money out the door and to people who can actually get on and get stuff done and make a difference to the region."
He urges anyone with a tourism-based project that will drive visitation and spending to jump online and apply for a share of the $2 million recovery fund.
Minister Ciobo said the projects would help deliver new tourism experiences in the region which suffered significant damage to its natural assets and tourism infrastructure.
"Tourism is a major contributor to the economy of the Whitsunday region which is why we took swift action to provide assistance," Mr Ciobo said.
"Tourism is the lifeblood of the Whitsundays and supports more than 5,000 jobs. These projects will help sustain and grow the sector as it recovers.
"To further support the region and help drive tourists back to the area, we are continuing our international campaign to showcase the Whitsundays to the world."
Minister Jones said having a strong tourism industry in the Whitsunday region was vital.
"We know how important tourism is to the Whitsundays injecting $1.6 billion every year into the local economy," Ms Jones said.
"That's why we are providing this funding to help create new experiences for people visiting the region and help local tourism operators get back on their feet."
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