“Out of adversity comes opportunity.”
Every cliche has a ring of truth and this particular saying is the reason why Whitsunday business Explore Group decided to invest money into the region after suffering a crippling loss from Cyclone Debbie.
Explore Group has put its money where its mouth is, investing $3million into two new purpose built dive boats to expand their business.
Moving to the mainland, with an office in Airlie Beach, the company is offering free transfers to their products on Hamilton Island in the interim before the boats arrive.
By the end of this year, to have two dive and snorkel boats operating on the inner and outer reef seven days a week out of Airlie beach while also offering dive education.
This business expansion also brings the promise to add more than 10 new staff to the 53 they already employ.
Explore Group’s David Rose said, over the last decade, dive qualifications sought in the Whitsundays had gone from upwards of 10,000 a year to about 250, of which the group claimed 150 were done on Hamilton Island.
“There is no dive education of any consequence currently in Airlie Beach,” he said.
“Last week alone we turned away 22-23 dive bookings because we couldn’t help with their dive qualifications – we don’t have a pool yet but we should have one very shortly.”
So it made sense to Mr Rose expand into the market gap and advertise the Whitsundays as a world diving destination.
“There is a big point of contention around coral at the moment and around the long term vision of the Great Barrier Reef as it stands with bleaching and cyclone,” he said.
“The cyclone did substantial damage but there are also some fantastic spots.”
Just four days after Debbie hit, Escape Group staff were out doing reconnaissance to find snorkelling spots.
“The first day revealed some extremely ugly scenes and, as time went on, we kept looking,” Mr Rose said.
“It was up to us, for our business viability, to find sites – I think that saved us as a business – there are a lot of guys who are still moaning about the state of the reef because they haven’t looked and invested like we did.”
Mr Rose said putting tourists in the water with bad coral was having knock on effects and driving visitors elsewhere.
“There are people going to places like Stonehaven, which is a wreck, and you shouldn’t be putting anyone in the water there.
“We are hearing it coming down from Cairns and Port Douglas – ‘you guys don’t have any reef left, we have heard it from all these people’.
“Right now it is very important as a region to put it out there – there are beautiful dive and snorkel sights, there might not be as many as before, but they are coming back – we are really surprised.
“For every negative there is a positive – I think the future is interesting.
“Mother nature is amazing.”
The multinational company Escape Group bought 50% of Cruise Indigo almost five years ago operating dive, sailing and dinner boats out of Hamilton Island before launching a full take over in April of 2016.
Source: Whitsunday Times.