PETER Hearnshaw was one of the 151 people representing the tourism industry to lay his towel on the silica white sands of the iconic Whitehaven Beach yesterday morning.

It was more than a pleasure trip for the owner of Airlie Beach Tourism, representatives of Ocean Rafting, Explore Whitsunday, Tourism Whitsunday, Tourism and Events Queensland and Hamilton Island.

The beach voted number one in the Southern Hemisphere provided the perfect backdrop to launch an international and domestic ad campaign entitled Welcome Back.

Beach towels were laid out on the sand to shape the letters "welcome back".

 

Ocean Rafting boats return from Whitehaven Beach yesterday morning.
Ocean Rafting boats return from Whitehaven Beach yesterday morning. Peter Carruthers

A month on since Cyclone Debbie tore through the Whitsundays, the collaboration of industry stakeholders was designed to send a message loud and clear to the nation and the world: the Whitsundays is back. A symbol of the industry's readiness to welcome back travellers from both far and near, the beach towel message is a timely invitation for visitors to return.

Mr Hearnshaw said the campaign was something the industry needed in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.

"Airlie Beach really is open for business to welcome people back to the Whitsunday Islands," he said.

 

Ocean Rafting crew Gosta Ehrnst, Peter Hearnshaw of Airlie Beach Tourism, Todd Robertson, owner of Ocean Rafting Jan Claxton and Tom Jones on their return from Whitehaven Beach.
Ocean Rafting crew Gosta Ehrnst, Peter Hearnshaw of Airlie Beach Tourism, Todd Robertson, owner of Ocean Rafting Jan Claxton and Tom Jones on their return from Whitehaven Beach. Peter Carruthers

Mr Hearnshaw acknowledged the tourism fleet had not yet completely recovered as boats required salvaging after being damaged and sunk and would require surveys before becoming operational.

"(However) Ocean Rafting is taking up the slack and of course showing people the Whitsundays."

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Craig Turner said the event on Whitehaven was not just a public relations stunt but a PR "activation" that would target a large audience through TEQ and Tourism Australia via a social media and digital campaign.

The campaign will be partly funded by the Queensland and Federal governments' release of $2million to encourage Australians to holiday in Queensland.

 

A bird's eye view of Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach.
A bird's eye view of Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach.

Tourism and Events Queensland CEO Leanne Coddington said the "welcome back" message would deliver a great boost to the local tourism industry.

"This support is vital to the Whitsundays community, with tourism worth $1.6 billion to the region and supporting more than 7,000 local jobs," she said.

"The beautiful Whitsunday is shining brightly," Ms Coddington said after experiencing a bird's eye view of Whitehaven Beach.


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