Kiwi wanderlust to turn our backyard into the next Fiji
Travellers from across the Tasman will soon be touching down in the Whitsundays and Mackay giving a much-needed boost to the embattled tourism industry.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the trans-Tasman travel with Australia would launch by March 2021 on Monday.
The 'bubble' means Australians would no longer need to quarantine for 14 days when they fly across the ditch.
And returning New Zealanders would not have to enter mandatory hotel quarantine when they return home.
The free movement over the Tasman has excited the region's tourism bodies, who say Mackay and Whitsundays could be the destination for Kiwis with wanderlust.
Mackay Tourism chief executive officer Tas Webber said operators were excited their Kiwi cousins would be arriving soon.
"New Zealand visitor numbers were significantly growing in the Mackay region pre-COVID, particularly the visiting friends and relatives market," Mr Webber said.
"The region's tourism operators are very keen to see new markets open up and its great to see New Zealand could be the first cab off the rank."
With the rest of the world cut off by COVID, Mr Webber said Mackay could become the next big tropical destination.
"New Zealand travellers will be seeking new destinations to visit, with nearby countries like Fiji closed off," he said.
"So we are keen to target the New Zealand leisure market as well."
Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Tash Wheeler said Kiwis were not part of the region's traditional tourism market, but the pandemic could change that.
"We believe there is huge potential to see growth in the number of visitors," Ms Wheeler said.
She said the new selling point for destinations like the Whitsundays was safety.
"I think that is really going to be a consideration for travellers in the future, especially as destinations in the pacific start to open up," Ms Wheeler said.
"I think it's important that we keep getting the message out there that the Whitsundays is a safe destination; our operators, accommodations and restaurants are COVID-Safe."
The Mackay and Whitsunday tourism bodies did not push for an expanded travel bubble, despite Flight Centre co-founder Graham Turner backing a calls for the immediate restart of international travel.
Mr Turner agreed with the World Travel and Tourism Council, Airports Council International, the World Economic Forum, and International Chamber of Commerce, who said the world could not wait for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
He said international travel could be safely managed with stringent protocols.
But Mackay Tourism said it would be guided by Tourism and Events Queensland and the State Government before pushing for the bubble to be expanded.
"(They) will look at regions in isolation to each other, given the diversity of our offerings," Mr Webber said.
"Our core international markets are Europe, UK, America and Canada.
"We will be ready to act if, and when, required."