Owner of Ocean Rafting Jan Claxton welcomed eased restrictions but said it would take the reopening of state borders before the region could start the road to recovery. Photo: Cameron Laird
Owner of Ocean Rafting Jan Claxton welcomed eased restrictions but said it would take the reopening of state borders before the region could start the road to recovery. Photo: Cameron Laird

Industry calls ‘to open up Australia to Australians’

EASED restrictions have been welcomed by tourism operators in the region but a push for the reopening of state borders remains strong with one owner saying it was "do or die" for the future of many businesses.

Queenslanders are now able to travel and stay freely within the state under the fast-tracked easing of restrictions announced yesterday.

The news came as a win for tourism operators in the region as previous restrictions limited travel to within 250km from home.

However, operators are still pushing for state borders to reopen in a bid to boost visitation to the region and secure much-needed numbers.

More stories:

'The whole season will be wiped out'

Decision made on popular Proserpine sports carnival

State's new cases as restrictions ease further

Owner of Ocean Rafting Jan Claxton said the eased travel restrictions were a "glimmer of hope" and that the team were "beside themselves" when they heard the news.

While she said the eased restrictions would open the door for intrastate travel, Ms Claxton said that alone would not be enough to help businesses back on their feet.

"Although it is a fantastic thing that's happened and it is a positive step, and I think it's really good for the morale and headspace (or workers), it's still not going a long way towards helping businesses stay viable," she said.

"It's so exciting we can travel again, and I look forward to getting some people out on water again, but as business owner I'm still pretty concerned because unless borders open up … I can't see how we'll survive for the next six months."

The eased restrictions still do not allow Ocean Rafting to operate at full capacity. Image: Supplied.
The eased restrictions still do not allow Ocean Rafting to operate at full capacity. Image: Supplied.

Ms Claxton said the relaxed restrictions would help increase visitation in the school holidays but would not be enough to make up for the numbers lost from the international travel market.

The social distancing restrictions, which mean Ocean Rafting is not able to operate their boats at full capacity, would also be a big hurdle in making business viable.

"The logistics have doubled and the possibility of getting money in the front door has dropped to less than 20 per cent," Ms Claxton said.

"We're just one of all the other businesses in exactly the same place."

Ms Claxton said it would take the reopening of state borders and continued assistance from the government before operators would start to feel a weight off their shoulders.

"When it comes to tourism, tours and experiences, it's still going to be really, really tough," she said.

"Until (state borders are opened), we really can't pretend we're going to come out of it as an industry, unless we have a huge amount of help from government.

"To open up Australia to Australians - that's the most important thing that can happen to us over the next few months."

Owner of Whitsunday Jetski Tours Toni Ward echoed the call the reopen state borders, saying it was "do or die" for operators.

"We're desperate, we won't turn on properly until that happens," she said.

"The damage it will incur with not having (borders) open in the future will be terminal for a lot of people."

Toni Ward (second from right) with the team from Whitsunday Jetski Tours said the region needed to work together to promote the best quality services and products.
Toni Ward (second from right) with the team from Whitsunday Jetski Tours said the region needed to work together to promote the best quality services and products.

Mrs Ward said the cooler months attracted travellers from southern parts of the country and would provide much-needed traffic for business.

However, while the state border remained closed, she said operators needed to focus on ensuring they were the best of the best to beat out competition in other regions.

"We really need to promote the quality products and services that we can deliver," she said.

"Being interstate, these are not backpackers, these are not international people who we will never see again. We need to look after Queenslanders so they come back again.

"We really need to treat them like gold."

Whitsunday Jetski Tours have been operating since restrictions eased in May and Mrs Ward said 90 per cent of her customers had previously booked a tour with the company before the coronavirus.

By working together to promote the region, Mrs Ward said operators would get a much-needed boost that would hopefully begin to pave the way to recovery.

"It's going to be a real challenge because every region is going to be vying for the Queenslander," she said.

"The message to get out is we really need to look after our neighbours and the Queenslanders so they come back again and again.

"Airlie's got to turn it on and make sure we have quality products and service so we can deliver."


On this day: What was making news in Guardian July 11, 1980

premium_icon On this day: What was making news in Guardian July 11, 1980

Take a step back in time to see what was making news 40 years ago

Woman’s bold claim about 1kg MDMA worth $360k on street

premium_icon Woman’s bold claim about 1kg MDMA worth $360k on street

Police allege she was ‘injecting’ during the bust but her lawyer says she was only...

Family's incredible spirit inspires NRL legend into action

premium_icon Family's incredible spirit inspires NRL legend into action

Moranbah family has the kind of rough trot you don't wish on anyone