Mayor Andrew Willcox, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays Tash Wheeler, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, CEO of Queensland Tourism Industry Council Daniel Gschwind and Tourism Minister Kate Jones during the premier’s visit to Airlie Beach earlier this year. Photo: Laura Thomas
Mayor Andrew Willcox, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays Tash Wheeler, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, CEO of Queensland Tourism Industry Council Daniel Gschwind and Tourism Minister Kate Jones during the premier’s visit to Airlie Beach earlier this year. Photo: Laura Thomas

Premier’s office responds to Whitsundays’ passionate plea

THE Premier’s office has responded to a passionate plea from the Whitsundays’ peak tourism body but gave no indication of an intention to deliver new, focused support for the region.

Tourism Whitsundays penned a passionate plea directly to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk outlining the significant losses the industry has suffered because of coronavirus restrictions.

The statement outlined how a disproportionate amount of funding has been allocated to the Whitsundays compared to other areas of Queensland.

A spokesman from the Premier’s office acknowledged the pandemic had hit the tourism industry and businesses hard in Queensland and around the world.

However, the spokesman did not indicate there was a plan in the works for Whitsunday-specific assistance.

The Whitsunday Times asked the Premier’s office whether the State Government would consider delivering relief based on the five points outlined in yesterday’s call for assistance.

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler met with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier this year.
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler met with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier this year.

These included direct funding to Whitsunday tourism businesses to aid their recovery, additional funding to the region’s airports, a dedicated destination recovery marketing fund, fast-tracked approvals in support of the Whitsunday Skyway Project and a relaxation of the eligibility criteria for the COVID small business adaptation grant.

The spokesman referred to several Queensland-wide initiatives in the response.

“Under our $6 billion Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs plan, we’re helping Queenslanders, including our tourism industry get through this,” he said.

“We’ve committed tens of millions of dollars to the tourism industry to help our major attractions keep running and keep their employees in jobs.

“We launched a new tourism campaign, You’re Good to Go, to encourage Queenslanders to back Queenslanders.

“We’ve boosted funding for shovel-ready tourism projects by $25 million for new attractions that can start construction immediately.”

The spokesman also said there was $15 million in funding “on the table” to secure more direct flights across the state, which could include Whitsunday Coast Airport and Hamilton Island Airport.

Despite Tourism Whitsundays asking specifically for the relaxation of eligibility criteria for the COVID small business adaptation grant, the spokesman said there had “never before been this amount of support” available for businesses.

“More than nine in 10 tourism businesses across the state are considered small businesses and have been able to access grants, payroll tax relief, electricity bill relief, a jobs support loan scheme, land tax relief and commercial rent payment deferrals,” he said.

“We’re delivering $200 million over two funding rounds to support small businesses including many in the Whitsundays.

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“While our focus has been helping small businesses, we are working with industry to expand support for medium-sized businesses such as our new CCIQ support officers and our payroll tax relief is assisting mostly medium-sized businesses.

“We’ve invested more in tourism than any government in Queensland’s history, particularly in the Whitsundays and we’ll continue to work with operators to help them recover.”

The spokesman also outlined other support measures that have been put in place for small and medium-sized businesses in Queensland, which included $1 billion in interest free loans, free online TAFE courses, energy rebates and the Back to Work program.

The Whitsunday Times also asked whether the State Government would consider extending more support to Whitsunday tourism operators through reduced berthing fees at marinas, as has been the case in Cairns.

The Premier’s office did not provide a direct response to this question but previously stated that the government could not relax marina fees in the Whitsundays as the marina is privately owned.


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