Hundreds flock to Proserpine under new tourism venture
A TASTE of rural Queensland was on the menu for cruise ship passengers on Sunday, with about 500 tourists sampling the delights of Proserpine.
Viking Cruises' Orion anchored in Pioneer Bay early on Sunday and the 930 passengers on the 40-night cruise could choose which of several tours they would go on while in the Whitsundays.
Many chose Proserpine over the reef and water-based activities, with the three-hour morning tour including a visit to the Proserpine Museum, a photo opportunity outside the sugar mill and a visit to a cane farm, as well as an opportunity to do some shopping for those who wanted to.
Organised by the Proserpine Chamber of Commerce, which has been in discussions with Viking Cruises since late 2018, the tour was about linking the two industries of agriculture and tourism, according to chamber president Bob Bogie.
"The main purpose of the tour was a visit to a cane farm, and linking in with cane farmers, as well as the museum, which gives the history of the place," he said.
"The tourists were very interested in what was going on at the farm - that part of the tour, and the museum, were very well received - and they really enjoyed themselves."
The visit by Viking Cruises' Orion was the second this year, with a similar tour organised in March. The ship will return for a third time, on March 25, 2020, and another tour will be organised.
"It's a case of what we do that's different then - with cane farmers restricted by availability at this time of year, I think we will get more take-up in March."
Mr Bogie said the long-term plan was to get more farmers, who were very interested in agritourism, on board.
"We are beginning to demonstrate that agritourism has a place, and it ties in with Tourism Whitsundays' Destination Tourism Plan, with an agriculture and heritage focus," he said.
"Proserpine is seen as the place with history and agriculture, Collinsville is the outback and Airlie Beach is the entertainment precinct - we are all playing to our strengths.
"Our overall aim is to try and demonstrate that agritourism works - I'm sure there's a market there, so let's see what we can do."
Cruise ship passenger Chris Wilton-Smith, from Blackheath, Sydney, said there were lots of trips to choose from but it was nice to see "a bit of the countryside and the small towns".
"The museum was wonderful - absolutely fantastic - the volunteers have done a great job, it's definitely worth a visit," he said.
"The table was even laid out with vegemite sandwiches, iced vovos, Anzac biscuits and jaffas!"
Terry Rice, from Burradoo, NSW, praised the cruise ship ambassadors, who greeted the guests off the ship.
"They were very friendly - so enthusiastic - they are fantastic," he said.
"The cane farm was good, very interesting - we've been to Queensland a few times to escape the winters, so we knew a bit about cane before - it was fascinating."