The Whitsunday tourism industry is set to receive the lion’s share of a $10 million funding package announced jointly by the Federal and State Governments in Airlie Beach today.
Federal Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo was first to announce the funding at a press conference held at the Cruise Whitsundays ferry terminal late this morning.
Mr Ciobo said he was in the Whitsundays at the request of Dawson MP George Christensen “to reinforce the ongoing commitment of the Turnbull coalition government to helping this region get back on its feet”.
“Tourism in the Whitsundays is one of the lifeblood industries. It employs around 10,000 people across the Whitsundays – iconic locations like Airlie Beach, like Whitehaven, like Hamilton island – these are destinations that many Australians and indeed many international tourists know. We want Australia and the world to know the Whitsundays is open for business. We want them to come here for their Easter holidays, come for their winter holidays,” he said.
Mr Ciobo went on to say how as “a strong show of support” the Federal Government would be providing a number of financial assistance programs, totalling $5 million, which he expected the State Government to match.
He explained the funding from Tourism Australia would pass to Tourism Queensland and said he had “no doubt” the Queensland Government would be responsive to calls from Whitsunday mayor Andrew Willox and Tourism Whitsundays chief executive Craig Turner to ensure a large portion of the money was focussed on the Whitsundays.
“Ultimately the way in which the funding works is directed by the Queensland State Government but having spoken to Queensland (tourism) minister, and having reinforced that from my perspective this is money to help the most adversely affected region, which is the Whitsundays, I’ve got no doubt the Queensland Government will step up to the plate – but you’ll be able to ask those questions directly of the state minister,” he told the media gathered on site.
Just a couple of minutes later that’s exactly what the waiting journalists were able to do, as State Tourism Minister Kate Jones and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk arrived.
Premier Palaszczuk promised her government would pledge the same amount as the Federal Government “to really give tourism that extra boost that they need”.
“Today the Federal Government has committed $5million and we will match that dollar for dollar to ensure that tourism across our state that has been severely impacted can get back on its feet,” she said.
“Our campaign is dedicated to encouraging more people to come here to the beautiful Whitsundays and my message to Australia today is the Whitsundays is open for business.
Look how beautiful this place is. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
And there was no case for “do as I say, not as I do”, with the Premier and Ms Jones leading by example.
“We want to see people continue with their holidays and I know my minister for tourism Kate Jones is bringing her family up here to this beautiful part of the region for Easter,” Premier Palaszczuk said, adding, “and I’m intending to come here in just over a month’s time to spend some time as well here – spending locally and really saying to the people of this area, ‘we understand what you have gone through’.”
Ms Jones said the funding would be used to boost advertising campaigns and available through the tourism driver infrastructure program, whereby council and local businesses were able to apply for infrastructure upgrades to attract more visitors.
“The Whitsundays is as you’ve heard the most visited part of the Great Barrier Reef. It is also as the Premier said, the place that copped the brunt (of Cyclone Debbie), so this is why… a significant focus on our campaign will be on the Whitsundays,” she promised.
Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said he certainly felt that as the most affected region, the Whitsundays deserved as much of the funding as possible and he wanted to see it filtering down to Tourism Whitsundays to manage on the ground.
He thanked both the Federal and State Governments for their support even joking that Ms Jones and the Premier had been here so often in the past two weeks, he should really charge them rates.
“We are the number one area (in Australia) to visit the Great Barrier Reef (from) – make no mistake about that. So we really need the funds to get our product up and running and for our workers who have been with us through this whole difficult time – they’ve stayed with us so we need to give them their jobs back. We need the people to come and visit us – and you will enjoy the experience,” he pledged.
Source: Whitsunday Times.