While we support the Premier’s call asking “Queenslanders to back Queenslanders” and to travel and spend within the State, this can only have a real benefit to our economy if North Queenslanders are able to move more freely within our own region, so our vital drive market can travel and fully support our flailing tourism and hospitality industry.
North Queensland does not have the population density that the likes of the Gold Coast and Brisbane can draw upon to support struggling tourism and hospitality businesses, so it is unrealistic and economically unviable to place the same set of rules on North Queensland as the South East.
The North Queensland economy is losing over $90 million each week that domestic travel is prohibited, prompting tourism and hospitality leaders to call for an urgent review of recreational travel restrictions throughout North Queensland in time for the school holidays.
- 55% of local tourism and hospitality businesses do not envisage viably reopening under the current road map (according to a recent member survey conducted by Townsville Enterprise)
- North Queensland's tourism and hospitality economy is worth $6.4 billion annually, and supported 37,400 direct jobs
- Our region holds it own, making up 25% of Queensland's tourism economic contribution despite having only 15% of the population
- Townsville North Queensland region typically attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year with 80% of travel coming from within Queensland (mostly within the drive market of Mount Isa - Mackay - Cairns)
- Townsville North Queensland supports 7,000 jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector, and contributes more than $1.2 billion annually to our regional economy
North Queensland needs to re-open as soon as possible and implementing a wider travel bubble, as well as increasing the gathering size allowed in businesses prior to the school holidays, will be the start of what is needed to re-energise the North Queensland economy.
Townsville Enteprise, together with the RTOs, is calling for what has already been earmarked for the ‘Outback’ region in Stage 2, where travel within the region for a recreational purpose is allowed and that it be applied to the wider North Queensland region from Mackay, north to Cairns, and west to the Queensland border.
The five tourism bodies are encouraging the Queensland Government to consider the processes in place in Western Australia, Northern Territory, and South Australia where broader travel within their own State has relaxed due to low infection rates, mirroring the situation here in North Queensland.
The Queensland Chief Health Officer stated from the outset that a region would need to see two incubation periods (28 days) without a locally acquired case for restrictions to be reviewed – it has now been more than 4 weeks since Townsville, Mackay or the Outback has seen a new case and there has been no community transmission at all in these areas; further to this it has been over 8 weeks since any cases in North Queensland were under investigation.
The reopening will be a step-by-step process, and the health and safety of everyone must always be a priority, but we have seen businesses and our community adhere to rules and implement strategies to keep their staff and the public safe. North Queensland has proven they can do it [be COVID-safe], but now it’s time we give them the opportunity to operate.
The best way to kick-start the economy is to reopen regional tourism in North Queensland and this needs to occur as soon as possible to prevent a tsunami of business closures. It’s imperative to act now to get locals back into jobs and allow North Queensland to get back to business.