Insult to injury: Bareboat industry left scratching its head
IN a "further blow" to the tourism industry, the Premier has announced that stage three of the Queensland roadmap could be pushed back from July to September, heaping yet more misery on Whitsundays' tourism operators.
Cumberland Charter Yachts (CCY) says the announcement - which would affect intrastate and interstate travel - is adding insult to injury.
The bareboating company was told it could operate under the new coronavirus restrictions earlier this month, only to be told six days later it could not operate, as it was considered tourism accommodation (not recreational boating, as it was initially classified).
CCY's general manager Sharon McNally said the company had jumped into action after being told it did comply with restrictions, on May 2, and they took 15 charter bookings before being told to stop operations on May 8.
"The Chief Health Officer is adamant - no overnight stays whatsoever," Mrs McNally said.
"We are all scratching our heads but will keep pushing for a better understanding. Meanwhile I'm seeing the industry go further backwards each day.
"And now, the premier has announced that the July 10 opening up of travel could be pushed back to September, which is a further blow to the industry."
Mrs McNally said if Cumberland Charter Yachts was prevented from operating until September, it could write off about $700,000 in bookings.
She said the impact on the local region also included loss of wages at about $100,000 over six months, which would have been spent in the local economy. In addition, clients spend an average $930 per charter on food and drinks, usually bought in Airlie Beach or Cannonvale.
Federal MP George Christensen has slammed the Queensland chief medical officer's decision to stop Whitsundays' bareboat operators filling their bookings, saying family groups travelled with no staff and could therefore practise safe social distancing.
"We have bareboat charter businesses ready to go and family groups booked and ready to sail who have been told one thing and then another regarding their ability to operate," he said.
"When authorities like the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) believe a family group undertaking a bareboat charter - where they can ensure they don't see another soul for the time of their trip - is a safe option, it beggars belief that we have a ruling from the Chief Medical Officer that this is not allowed.
"I have asked, for the sake of these Whitsunday tourism operators and the locals they provide jobs to, that this senseless red tape is removed as soon as possible."
However, in a letter sent to Cumberland Charter Yachts by the Premier's office, dated May 20, 2020, it states very clearly that "protecting the health of Queenslanders continues to be the top priority".
The letter, signed by the director-general, says: "Queensland Health has advised that overnight voyages and stays on bareboats for recreation purposes are not currently permitted, consistent with the position on land. I appreciate this is not the position you wanted to receive but I hope you can understand that all decisions are being made based on the expert health advice."
In the meantime, Mrs McNally said all they could do was wait.
"According to the roadmap, on June 12 we can open up tourism accommodation - which is what they are classifying us as - to people up to 250km away. This opens up Townsville and Mackay, which won't keep us that busy for too long, but it's a great start.
"We are still working towards the June 12 date for charters, but we are taking bookings now for 2021 and beyond.
"But right at the moment, we have local families sitting around waiting and asking when they can go out on the water on the charter they've booked."