Council makes big call on 2020 Schoolies program
WHITSUNDAY Regional Council has officially cancelled its 2020 Schoolies program.
Councillors voted unanimously at today's council meeting to cancel the 7-Day Safety Response Program due to the ongoing issues and risks related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, private booking agency Schoolies.com is still taking bookings for its 2020 Schoolies program in Airlie Beach.
The decision comes after the Whitsunday Schoolies Advisory Committee concluded "that it would be a too high a risk to the community to run the program this year".
Mayor Andrew Willcox said the event's cancellation was a precautionary measure that would increase community safety.
"The risk of a positive COVID case occurring if we went ahead with Whitsunday Schoolies, and the flow-on impacts to the Whitsundays as a popular tourist destination, is just too high," he said.
"The Whitsundays is a safe place to visit, with no positive coronavirus cases for over three months, but constantly changing restrictions have made planning even a month ahead impossible so the commonsense thing to do was cancel."
However, Cr Willcox said the region was "still open for business" and welcomed travellers making their way to the Whitsundays for a holiday.
"People coming as free and independent travellers and staying within their group, they are still very welcome," he said.
"This time of year, some people, because there's so many Schoolies around, tend to stay away.
"We need to also inform them that there potentially mightn't be many Schoolies around, so come and take advantage, enjoy this beautiful part of the world and also look after our tourism operators and restaurants because a lot of the kids don't necessarily go to the restaurants.
"While it's not necessarily good for the Schoolies for this particular year, we're erring on the side of safety, but we could end up OK."
"When Schoolies is on, it keeps away your normal domestic travellers," he said.
"With so many businesses dependent on making money week to week right now, we really can't afford to lose a week's worth of revenue due to Schoolies being here."
Any students who have pre-registered for 2020 Whitsunday Schoolies activities through the Whitsunday Schoolies website will be contacted this week and are eligible for a full refund.