Garry Porter,  Mackay Airport general manager.
Garry Porter, Mackay Airport general manager. Caitlan Charles

Airport flight hit: Tourism industry backs border closure

UPDATE 5.30PM: MACKAY airport has been hit with a new pandemic blow as the "disappointing" NSW border closure hits the embattled industry.

Mackay Airport head of aviation Garry Porter said while it was disappointing to hear about the border closures, he understood the importance of the measure.

"Mackay Airport continues to be in discussions with other airports and airlines all the time in response to the changing conditions for travel, to make sure that anyone who can or needs to travel here, can do so," he said.

As Virgin Australia announced major job cuts, Mr Porter said it was a challenging time for the aviation industry.

"We feel for those colleagues across our industry who will be affected by this," he said.

Mr Porter said Tigerair ceased flying into Mackay in 2013 and was unlikely to return in the near future.

"We look forward to a new strong, sustainable and competitive Virgin Australia coming out of administration to connect our region," he said.

Mr Porter was able to share some good news for aviation in Mackay, with Qantas increasing its capacity this month by operating three Boeing 737's and one Dash Q400 from Brisbane to Mackay daily.

UPDATE, 3.15PM: MACKAY Tourism has come out in support of the State Government's move to close the borders.

In a statement provided to the Daily Mercury CEO Tas Webber said the protecting the health of Queenslanders needed to come before the economic importance of domestic travel.

Tas Webber, Mackay Tourism's new general manager, believes more can be done to properly market our region.
Tas Webber, Mackay Tourism's new general manager, believes more can be done to properly market our region. Luke Mortimer

"Mackay Tourism encourages the Queensland Government to reopen the state's borders when it is safe to do so," Mr Webber said.

The border closure comes as large annual events like the 2020 Queensland Mining and Engineering Expo are cancelled.

The expo brings thousands to town and regularly maxes out accommodation providers.

"Major events represent an important drawcard for visitation and economic investment into The Mackay Region," Mr Webber said.

"The cancellation of events like the 2020 Queensland Mining and Engineering Expo will have a detrimental impact on tourism operators in Mackay.

"With that in mind however, Mackay cannot afford a second wave of COVID-19."

Operators are concerned about the impact of border closures on the Whitsundays and Mackay regions.
Operators are concerned about the impact of border closures on the Whitsundays and Mackay regions. Tourism and Events Queensland

11.10AM: Reactions are streaming in as operators across the region adjust to the border closure announcement.

Mackay Marine Tourist Park Big 4 manager Melissa Le Grand said there had been an influx of calls since Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the closure at a press conference this morning.

She said customers were calling to cancel or move their bookings, though most were putting their booking on credit for future use rather than a full cancelation.

Ms Le Grand said it had been a "really tough period" for the business and its staff because of the revolving door of rule changes.

"The constant changes to what is and isn't allowed makes it really hard for us to keep up to date with what is happening," she said.

"We are also finding that while most of our guests are really lovely, there are some that are getting short with us when we ask for more information than we had to in the past."

The park was normally packed with long-term stay customers and grey nomads as they trekked north to warmer weather at this time of year.

"We are all missing the friendly banter and friendships we would normally develop with our winter nomads each year when they come up to stay for a long period rather than just a couple of days," Ms Le Grand said.

Although the closure will impact the business, Ms Le Grand said she hoped Queensland families would take advantage of the "once in a lifetime chance" to see Queensland during winter.


INITIAL: QUEENSLAND borders will be slammed shut to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced this morning Queensland would shut the border to NSW.

Health Minister Steven Miles said people would not be allowed to fly into Queensland from the ACT to prevent people from NSW creating a loophole as they attempted to get around the border ban.

The move has drawn strong reactions from the region's tourism operators, many of which are struggling to keep their businesses viable during the pandemic.

Whitsunday Jetski Tours Toni Ward said while she was not surprised by the news, it would come as a massive blow to the region's tourism industry.

"It was expected," she said.

"I think the scariest thing is to think we would have to go back into lockdown again and shut down all the businesses, so if this is our saving grace of just shutting the borders but still being able to run the Queensland economy and still have a daily life that we can try and keep things normal then that's good.

"I would hate to think that we would go into a case of lockdown to the extreme of what Victoria's done and a second wave would be terrifying."

Mrs Ward said her business had a "different" market to other operators in the region with a larger percentage of intrastate customers.

However, she predicted today's announcement would send shockwaves through other operators as well as the islands.



"Unfortunately for the resorts and for the larger companies, this is going to be absolutely such a blow for them," she said.

"Just when they were cranking back up and getting ready for a good September-October holidays, I would say they're going to be losing about half of their occupancy, which is just soul destroying."

Fish D'Vine owner Kevin Collins predicted the impact of the border closure would be lesser on the restaurant industry.

Mr Collins said less than 10 per cent of people visiting his restaurant were from other states, saying now was the time for the region to push for more intrastate travellers.

"I don't like it, but I accept and understand it," he said.

"Clearly it will be a reduction in the current level of business, but I think the majority of businesses in Airlie Beach, particularly those that are dealing with domestic market rather than the international market, will tell you that things have been pretty positive.

"You've got a very big population base on the Gold Coast and Brisbane who want to get out of the Gold Coast and Brisbane and have a bit of a holiday.

"I think Airlie Beach is exceptionally well placed to be that small clean, green, friendly, little bucket list destination."


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In Mackay, White Lace Motel and Mid City Motor Inn manager Tanya Dougan said she did not expect further border closures to have a huge impact on motels along Nebo Rd.

She said both serviced mostly Queensland-based clientele like mine workers or business travellers.

"Most of our customers are Queensland based," she said.

"I don't think that it is going to affect our two motels too much.

"We are finding that because people (in Queensland) can move a little bit and travel they are actually going and visiting places they have not been before."

The border remains open to South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The closures will be in place from 1am on Saturday, August 8 and very few people will be exempt, and Queenslanders returning to their home state will be forced into hotel quarantine for two weeks.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said recent examples showed a blatant disregard for the law.

"The selfish and reckless actions of a few people are putting the safety of our community at risk and threatening to undo all of the good work of Queenslanders so far," Mr Miles said.

"I urge Queenslanders not to travel interstate; the risks are too great. Stay in Queensland and stay safe."

The Premier said the border closure would be reviewed at the end of the month.



More to come