FESTIVITIES: Celebrating the magic of the reef at the 2018 Whitsunday Reef Festival.
FESTIVITIES: Celebrating the magic of the reef at the 2018 Whitsunday Reef Festival. PETER CARRUTHERS

Funding boost for reef festival and race week events

RENOWNED local events, Airlie Beach Race Week and The Whitsunday Reef Festival have received a big funding boost for 2019.

Tourism and Events Queensland announced the news this week, and the increased funding comes as part of the Queensland Destination Events Program (QDEP).

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler said destination events played a key role in fostering regional tourism and economic growth.

"Events not only target new markets for visitation, but add to increased length of stay, dispersal and visitor expenditure within the region,” she said.

The Whitsunday Reef Festival will kick off the festivities in August, celebrating the Great Barrier Reef, and what it means to live in the Whitsundays. The event will receive and extra $15,000 in funding.

About 9000 people attended the four-day festival last year, and the region is looking forward to welcoming more people this year.   

The iconic Airlie Beach Race Week, will receive a whopping $150,000 in extra funding - the highest amount ever received by the event.

The seven-day event is one of the largest yacht racing regattas in Australia, and last year injected over $2 million into the local economy.

Offshore the Regatta offers classes from International Ratings Certificate (IRC) competitive racing through to cruising divisions, attracting around 1450 competitors, officials and volunteers.

Onshore the Festival of Sailing, is the Whitsunday Coasts' most significant public event, presenting a week of high profile entertainment and social activities. 

Yachts on Pioneer Bay for Airlie Beach Race Week 2018.
Yachts on Pioneer Bay for Airlie Beach Race Week 2018. Peter Carruthers

Mrs Wheeler said the tourism industry was the largest employer in the region, accounting for about 40 per cent of the jobs and is the second-largest contributor to the region's industry.

"We are very pleased with the results of this funding and hope to see more events be successful with the QDEP program throughout the year,” she said.

Airlie Beach Race Week marketing director Adrian Bram said the 2018 Airlie Beach Race Week Festival of Sailing made an overall contribution of about $6 million to the local economy.

"This confirms Airlie Beach Race Week's position as the most significant community festival event for the Whitsunday region,” he said.

"In 2019 we plan to make it even bigger and better with and increased number of entries and an expanded program of festival activities for the local community and visitors to the Whitsundays.”

Mrs Wheeler said it was the most significant funding both events had ever seen.

"We are thrilled with this generous financial boost from the State Government for The Whitsunday Reef Festival and Airlie Beach Race Week,” she said.

"This money will afford us the ability to significantly boost attendance figures for 2019, driving more people to our beautiful region, which will greatly increase expenditure throughout”.