Whitsunday candidates outline their plans to help support tourism. Picture: Laura Thomas
Whitsunday candidates outline their plans to help support tourism. Picture: Laura Thomas

CANDIDATES RESPOND: Supporting tourism post-COVID

TOURISM has been a hot topic in the lead up to the state election with one in three jobs in the Whitsundays related to the industry.

Last week, candidates for the Whitsunday seat attended the Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce election forum where they fielded questions from the public.

Hopefuls in the race for Whitsunday were asked what they would do to support the tourism industry, especially during COVID recovery.

Here's what they had to say;

Paul Hilder - Legalise Cannabis Qld

Mr Hilder said connections, community-based studies and training would be key in helping the tourism industry recover.

"(This) also includes not destroying the very environment that sustains tourism in this area," he said.

He said tourism should be carried out in a "sustainable and responsible and safe way".

Mr Hilder also argued that the decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis would help the environment and tourism.

"It's an environmentally responsible crop," he said.

"Cannabis is a game changer, it is environmentally responsible, it is good for your health."

 

 

Amanda Camm - LNP

Ms Camm said she had conducted several meetings with Tourism Whitsundays as well as small businesses and the charter boat industry.

She said the LNP had a plan to give tourism bodies the power to market the region alongside their local members.

"You know your product, you know your market and you need that autonomy and that flexibility," she said.

Ms Camm also referenced her commitment to land based tourism saying the government needed to get out of the way and work with proponents to create "great products" post-COVID.

"We need to strike the balance in sustainable development … but we need to do that now, in the next 12 months.

"It is going to be a competitive world in Australia post COVID-19 … so I will continue to advocate, I will continue to meet, to be available, and to work alongside and be a champion for our local tourism business and industry."

Emma Barrett - The Greens

Ms Barrett said she had close connections with several industries in the Whitsundays and had direct feedback on their experiences.

"I would also like to just listen," she said.

"Every business is different and every business has different requirements."

She also said the region should focus on eco-tourism and carbon neutrality.

"People are looking for that and the market is heading that way," she said.

Ms Barrett also said taking action on climate change would be vital for tourism to maintain the reef and keep people coming to the Whitsundays for reef-related tourism.

 

Angie Kelly praised Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for keeping the border closed. Picture: Laura Thomas
Angie Kelly praised Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for keeping the border closed. Picture: Laura Thomas

Angie Kelly - Labor

Ms Kelly said the tourism industry and the state's economy were "open for business right now" because of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's firm stance on the border closure.

"Our economy has (kept) going because of that," she said.

"Tourism has occurred because of that decision making."

She said she had been door knocking throughout her campaign to hear what residents wanted from her.

"Currently, I'm a candidate, so my ability to do things right now isn't there," she said.

"But as a member of parliament, what I can absolutely assure you that I will do, that it is a no-brainer, that it is vital to support the industry here in the Whitsundays and part of doing that is to support what brings tourists here, which is our natural local area."

Deb Lawson - One Nation

Ms Lawson said she would consult tourism bodies and small businesses to develop policy.

She said a focus on land-based tourism opportunities like the Skyway and mountain bike trails would help in the region's recovery while also expanding marketing campaigns.

"We need to market the Whitsundays down in the southeast corner to the travel agents down there," she said.

"I have a nephew who owns several travel agencies down on the Sunshine Coast and he came to the Whitsundays for the first time six weeks ago because they normally run small group tours where they are tour guides overseas, that's all they ever promoted."

She also said a rebate could be provided for drive market tourism and also highlighted the need to fix roads leading in to the Whitsundays.

Ms Lawson also floated the idea of a set rate per seat for incoming flights.

Candidates addressed questions on their priorities, including development, tourism and the future of the reef. Picture: Laura Thomas
Candidates addressed questions on their priorities, including development, tourism and the future of the reef. Picture: Laura Thomas

Jason Costigan - NQ First

Mr Costigan said tourism would likely be the last industry to come back economically.

He said a boost in flights as well as marketing the region as a drive destination would help operators back on their feet.

"Hence the need for serious investment in the Bruce Highway and not starting it around Gympie and waiting until I'm an old man before we see duplication and flood mitigation," he said.

Mr Costigan said an investment in the resurrection of the Sunlander passenger train would help re-establish links with the region and a "reduction of red and green tape" of the Skyway project.

He also mentioned a commitment to an aquarium and a cultural centre in Airlie Beach and a jetty in Cannonvale.

Note: Greg Armstrong from the United Australia Party was not in attendance. Ciaron Paterson from Katter's Australia Party attended the early stages of the forum but had to leave due to prior engagements.


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