Pictured above: Magnetic Island from Sealink Ferry
As the Townsville North Queensland region begins the clean-up post Cyclone Kirrily, and while thousands await the return of power, the local tourism industry is grappling with millions of dollars in cancellations, soft forward bookings, and fears for the next two months.
Over the weekend, Townsville Enterprise joined a number of local tourism operators to meet with Queensland Premier Hon Steven Miles and Federal Minister for Agriculture and Emergency Management Hon Murray Watt, to call for recovery assistance for the region’s most impacted sector.
Townsville Enterprise CEO, Claudia Brumme-Smith said that recovery efforts for the tourism sector are of paramount importance.
“Townsville North Queensland’s visitor economy contributes $1.1B to the local economy and supports more than 7,200 local jobs. 25% of these jobs are represented on Magnetic Island. This is an industry that is critical to our economy, but it is also fundamental to supporting liveability – great places to visit are great places to work and live.” said Ms Brumme-Smith.
“Between the sentiment and perception challenges of Cyclone Jasper, and now the impacts of lost business, cancellations, and next to no forward bookings following Cyclone Kirrily, the industry has endured a tough six weeks. We estimate that to date the financial impact to the local tourism industry exceeds $18M.”
“We are now turning our minds to recovery for when the time is right – without Government support the damage will be felt for many weeks ahead.”
“We are working collaboratively with all levels of Government to support this sector, as they are calling for support and we need to act now.” Said Ms Brumme-Smith.
Townsville Enterprise has conducted an audit of the accommodation properties on Magnetic Island, 30% of the properties were contactable and represent approximately 600 rooms. Across these rooms on Saturday night there were a mere 7 paying guests.
Local tourism operator Clare Ley from Pilgrim Magnetic Island echoes these impacts for her own business.
“The financial loss between Cyclone Jasper and Cyclone Kirrily is huge, but the worst part is the forward bookings for the next month are dire – at 3% of what we saw last year,” said Ms Ley.
“This industry needs some support urgently to bring back visitors. We would love to see an announcement on a holiday voucher programs, flight incentives and some marketing to tell the world we are open for business.” Said Ms Ley.
Patrick Grant General Manager of Peppers Blue on Blue says that the timing of Cyclone Kirrily couldn’t have been worse.
“It’s normally a quieter period for our industry over the summer months, but it’s the long weekends and public holidays that helps us ride through February and into March.”
“We are looking forward to reopening for business, but this region will need to work hard to rebuild our visitor numbers following a challenging 6-week period, said Mr Grant.
The Townsville North Queensland Recovery Action Plan was presented to both State and Federal Government over the weekend. This proposed three stage action plan will help to address immediate concerns of the tourism sector in rebuilding demand through incentive schemes, it will help to build a more resilient industry, and will future proof the industry through destination promotion.