The need to work together was a message which was powerfully delivered at a tourism luncheon at Abell Point Marina’s Lure today.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Tourism Minister Kate Jones, Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox, Tourism Whitsunday CEO Craig Turner and an array of tourism operators attended the luncheon to discuss the road ahead two weeks on from Cyclone Debbie hitting the coast.
Ocean Rafting co-owner Peter Claxton said it was important for an inclusive approach to be adopted to ensure the long-term beauty of the region.
“Because we have had this natural disaster come, it has woken everyone up to the fact that we really do need to work together and look after this area from a conservation point of view,” Mr Claxton said.
“It is very important that this is not done from arms-length.”
Abell Point Marina general manager Luke McCaul said while challenges lay ahead for the marina, they were confident of sending a message that the Whitsundays was open for business.
“The biggest thing for us is we had 15% of marina pontoon infrastructure demolished, it needs to be taken out and put back and that will put pressures on our private operations,” he said.
“So the biggest challenge is to fast-track that and put it back together in 3-4 months.”
Explore Whitsundays Tourism operator Al Grundy said he was confident the Whitsundays would make a powerful recovery and noted the resilience of the local industry.
“Our Whitsunday Plan of Management area has a footprint of 1% of the GBRMPA area and we are moving 44% of all domestic tourism into the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
“We are only 1% of the park and the Whitsunday islands are generating more revenue per square kilometre than any other section of the Great Barrier Reef..
Mr Grundy said a stronger focus on prioritising National Parks in the region would be an important step in attracting more guests.
“I’m a bit worried about the National Parks field management budget,” he said.
“I was on track with the tourism reef advisory council and we have to cut… I don’t know what colour tape it is, but we have got to take shortcuts and fast track action with additional walks and viewing platforms.”
Mr Grundy noted the fantastic work achieved in terms of getting walks such as the Nara Inlet and North Whitehaven Beach running and said South Whitehaven Beach was on the mend.
Meanwhile he said there would be “emotional challenges” for many in the region and ongoing assistance would be required.
Premier Palaszczuk responded and took the opportunity to announce her government would provide support for people in need of emotional support.
“I acknowledge how important it is that we provide necessary support people need,” she said.
“I have been confronted by many people who are very emotional and upset.
“We will put up a dedicated fund to help people get that counselling.”
Tourism Minister Kate Jones told tourism operators that she had received their message loud and clear.
“There are a number of notes I have taken about work we can do across government to help you get back on your feet,” she promised.
Following the luncheon, the delegation briefly visited the Airlie Beach main street.
The Premier and Tourism Minister met local residents at Magnums Hotel and inspected the clean-up effort achieved.
As of Monday morning the hostel was able to make 300 beds available to tourists struggling to find a place to stay.
Ms Jones praised the recovery effort which took an enormous stride forward since she last visited the region.
“I know there is still a lot of work to be done but the recovery to this point has been amazing and (people) have done an amazing job,” she said.
“The people who work in the tourism industry here in Airlie at the Whitsundays are still the best in the business and the fact that they have gotten businesses up and open as quickly as they have is a testament to that.”
Source: Whitsunday Times.