‘We need people, and people want to come’
BUSINESS owners are calling for a fast-tracked border reopening, saying the date flagged by the Premier is too late to capitalise on tourists from southern states.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed on Friday afternoon that Queensland had committed to reopening its border in July.
While Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is yet to make an official announcement, her office confirmed a reopening on July 10 to The Courier-Mail on Friday, saying the date would be confirmed pending a review of medical advice at the end of the month.
However, the date floated by the Premier would leave only two days in the Victorian school holidays and a week for tourists in New South Wales to travel north during what is typically a busy time for the Whitsundays.
This has lead to calls to bring the date forward in a bid to help the region start the road to recovery.
Managing director of Queensland Yacht Charters Christophe Vanek said the date flagged for the border reopening would result in the loss of much-needed numbers for the region.
“It’s just pushing back and pushing back the potential for the whole tourism industry to get back on track,” he said.
“No one is going to go overseas on holidays and people want to come to the warmer part of Australia when it’s winter down south.
“At the moment, they’re going to have to stay in Victoria and New South Wales for the next school holidays.”
Mr Vanek said what would usually be one of the busiest times of the year for the region would instead be “a little bit thin” as the Whitsundays competed with Cairns, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast for intrastate tourists.
Queensland Yacht Charters has fielded interest from travellers wanting to come north, taking several bookings from Victorians and other southern travellers pre-emptively planning travel.
An early reopening, in Mr Vanek’s opinion, would be beneficial not only for the tourism industry but for the whole region.
“We live on tourism, the whole place lives on tourism,” he said.
“We need people, and people want to come.”
Reopening the state border with time to spare before school holidays was also supported in the region’s accommodation sector.
Owner of Conway Beach Tourist Park Peter Miller was angry the Premier had not committed to a definite date for the reopening of the border.
“The problem is no one can go and pre book flights, so they’ll go elsewhere,” he said.
“They’ll go up to northern New South Wales.”
Mr Miller said 98 per cent of his visitors came from other states, including South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, and that allowing intrastate travel had not made much of a difference in boosting numbers in the park.
He was concerned the date floated by the Premier was too late in what was typically peak season and the park would miss out on a much-needed boost.
“I think the oldies will think it’s too far to come up for such a short time because once it gets too hot, they’ll want to head back again,” he said.
“There is no reason to keep the border closed. The COVID rate up in Queensland, and even in Victoria and New South Wales is not high.”
Mr Miller called for the borders to be reopened before Victorian school holidays to allow time for southerners to plan their travels to warmer weather.
“Tourism operators will now miss out on hosting sunshine-starved Victorians for these next school holidays and we’ll only get half of the New South Wales school holidays, hardly the approach we need to get these tourism operators back on their feet,” he said.