Job losses rise and more flights suspended
THOUSANDS of people across the Whitsundays have lost their jobs and flights are grounded, prompting Tourism Whitsundays to call for people to pull together and support each other through the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
In figures released today, 116 businesses reported that 2018 jobs had been lost across the region.
Of those surveyed, just over 30 per cent have been forced to suspend operations.
This brings the total estimated economic impact of coronavirus on the region to $122,215,317 with 21,901 rooms and 13,717 tours or activities cancelled.
CEO of Tourism Whitsundays Tash Wheeler said the current figures were only a snapshot of the impact but called on the whole region to pull together during this “heartbreaking” time.
“If there was ever a time to recognise that we are one in this region from the islands to Airlie Beach to Proserpine to Collinsville to Bowen, this is that time,” she said.
“If Debbie wasn’t enough, this is it.
“We are not segregating. We are one region, and we rely on all of the components of this region to be strong and successful and we need us all to be a part of that.”
The full force of coronavirus on tourism in the region is yet to be fully felt as both Jetstar and Virgin this week announced they would temporarily suspend their services.
All Virgin Australia flights in and out of Whitsunday Coast Airport will be suspended from midnight March 27 for 11 weeks, until June 14.
Marketing manager of Whitsunday Coast Airport Craig Turner said he understood Jetstar would also suspend their services but did not have any information regarding when this would begin.
“They are going to suspend services into Whitsunday Coast Airport, and at this stage they are looking like that will be through the end of May,” he said.
Mr Turner said the airport will remain open for essential services and is ready to reinstate commercial travel “at a minute’s notice”.
“Prior to these decisions being made our load factors were very strong and the airport stands ready at a minute’s notice to service these aircrafts once they make the decision or reinstate these (flights),” he said.
Mrs Wheeler said Tourism Whitsundays also had plans in place to help the region get back on its feet in what she hoped would be the near future.
“We’ve got quite a bit ready to go from a regional perspective, and we’re hoping the tail on this is not as long as what is being predicted,” she said.
“We will prep what we can and have everything ready, and I will always be on the end of the phone to talk to anyone.”