The deserted Airlie Beach Main Street.
The deserted Airlie Beach Main Street.

‘Prevent a tsunami of business closures and maintain jobs’

NORTH Queensland tourism groups have outlined their options to kickstart the tourism industry and reduce limits on travel, in a letter outlined to the premier.

Tourism Whitsundays was among five tourism bodies in northern, central and outback Queensland who have penned a plan to Annastacia Palaszczuk calling for variations to the State Government's road map to easing restrictions and for the premier to "acknowledge the situation in the north of the state is different to the south."

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler said that the plan contained what they believe would be an achievable road map for regional travel among the state.

"Tourism Whitsundays together with Tourism Tropical North Queensland, Townsville Enterprise, Outback Tourism aand Mackay Tourism have submitted a North Queensland Recovery road map plan to Premier Palaszczuk this week," she said.

"This plan outlined the measured steps we believe can be put in place to see the regional travel bubble proposal rolled out.

"We think these steps are an achievable plan to get people travelling and our businesses back up and running."

Outlined in the letter were three key modifications to the government's current plan - extending the Outback boundary to accommodate North Queensland, fast-tracked statewide travel when appropriate and increased gathering limits to improve business viability.

The numbers outlined in the letter were harrowing and detailed that the North Queensland economy was losing over $90m every week that domestic travel was prohibited from occurring.

Horseshoe Bay Bowen
Horseshoe Bay Bowen

According to the letter, the tourism industry in North Queensland contributed more than $6b annually to the economy and supported 37,400 direct jobs.

"North Queensland does not have the population density of Brisbane and Gold Coast, and it is unrealistic and economically unviable to place the same set of restrictions on North Queensland as the South East corner," the letter said.

"Reviewing the restrictions to allow North Queenslanders to travel within North Queensland will greatly improve the viability of small businesses.

"If the health advice allows, this should be followed by approving statewide travel before the June school holidays to prevent a tsunami of business closures and maintain the 30,000 plus livelihoods that desperately depend on the tourism and hospitality sector."

The tourism groups proposed three different methods of reopening, all to begin from June 5.

All options outlined an extension to Queensland's current travel areas and called for 'travel bubbles' among different regions of Queensland.

The options outlined in a letter sent to Annastacia Palaszczuk calling to create a different road map for north Queensland
The options outlined in a letter sent to Annastacia Palaszczuk calling to create a different road map for north Queensland

The tourism collective also called for an increase in gathering numbers to 50 people from June 5.

All three options allowed for interstate travel between selected states such as South Australia and Northern Territory by July 10, with option 3 allowing complete interstate travel subject to a health review at the time.

"While the regional travel bubble will not solve all the economic issues we are faced with in relation to COVID-19, it will help us reignite tourism and our local economy," Ms Wheeler said.

"Intrastate and interstate travel remains a focus and critical source of visitation for the Whitsundays."

A meeting on Wednesday between tourism bodies and the State Government was labelled a positive step forward to securing travel freedom for North Queensland, with the Premier revealing she had taken the travel bubble suggestion directly to the Chief Health Officer to assess.

"I appreciated the opportunity to hear direct about proposals to further support the Mackay Whitsunday region recover from COVID-19," the Premier said.

"I understand the impacts this is having on people and local economies and I am determined to do everything possible to support Queensland jobs."