Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler met with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier this year. Photo: Laura Thomas
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler met with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier this year. Photo: Laura Thomas

‘COMPLETELY WRONG’: Region calls for fair share of funding

A DESPERATE plea for support penned by the region's leading tourism body has been labelled "crucial" to the survival of the Whitsunday marine tourism industry.

A statement from Tourism Whitsundays released yesterday outlined the significant losses the industry has suffered because of coronavirus restrictions.

The impassioned plea for assistance followed reported losses of more than $5 million in direct in direct bookings and more in indirect spending in the first 72 hours following the Greater Sydney travel restriction announcement.

Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association executive secretary Sharon Smallwood estimated these costs would increase over the coming weeks, saying Tourism Whitsundays' plea shone a light on the suffering industry.

"The premise that's been put forward in the letter to the Queensland Government is absolutely correct, there has been a disproportionate amount of recovery funding allocated to other areas of Queensland," she said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the Whitsundays in June and again last week. Picture: Laura Thomas
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the Whitsundays in June and again last week. Picture: Laura Thomas

"You've only got to look at the $3.67 million that was given in berthing relief to Cairns operators versus zero dollars to the Whitsundays."

Former Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad announced a $3.67 million fee relief package for operators at the Cairns Marina on February 14.

Under the relief package, commercial and reef operators in Cairns were given a 100 per cent rebate on their marina fees.

The same assistance has not been given to tourism operators berthed at Coral Sea Marina as it is privately owned.

Ms Smallwood said this was "completely wrong".

"(Cairns and the Whitsundays) are on a parallel level in terms of their contribution to reef tourism," she said.

 

 

"If you only support one and not the other, you basically give the one that you're supporting a competitive advantage, which is completely wrong in these times.

"Without providing the sorts of support that are needed here our industry will not survive."

When asked by the Whitsunday Times in June whether similar assistance would be given to Whitsunday operators as was provided in Cairns, a spokesman for the Minister for Employment and Small Business said the State Government had provided support through other means to operators moored at private marinas.

 

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However, Ms Smallwood echoed the sentiments of the statement released yesterday, saying the Whitsundays needed to be afforded the same level of assistance in order to stay afloat.

"I would really love the Premier to come here and talk directly to the industry," she said.

"She's been here and spoken to the tourism body, I'd love for her to come here and talk to the owner of Coral Sea Marina who is currently helping tourism operators stay afloat out of his own pocket in comparison to Cairns where that's being done through taxpayer funds.

"I'd love her to come and see that for herself and talk to everybody on the ground because I feel if she did that and if she heard the stories first hand, and was able to see the devastating effect of not receiving enough help, I'm sure she would appreciate that these calls for assistance are really genuine and are being made for a very good reason."

The Whitsunday Times has contacted Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's office for comment.


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