Plea for ‘North Queensland bubble’ to lift tourism industry
THE tourism industry is calling for a North Queensland bubble allowing unrestricted travel in various areas including the Whitsundays to help re-energise the economy.
The "bubble" would cover the Whitsundays, Mackay, Cairns, Townsville and outback regions from June 12 when Stage 2 COVID-19 restrictions start.
Regional Tourism Organisations Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ), Townsville
Enterprise, Mackay Tourism, Tourism Whitsundays and the Outback Queensland Tourism
Association are urging the State Government to lift the 250km restriction on recreational
travel within North Queensland.
Tourism Whitsundays chief executive officer Tash Wheeler acknowledged the great work
the government had been doing to guide Queenslanders through such a challenging time.
"Premier Palaszczuk and her government have been navigating us through uncharted
waters," she said.
"There was no instruction manual for how to handle this. I believe our State
Government has shown leadership through such uncertainty, because of this we have had no
positive cases in the Whitsundays for over a month."
The North Queensland region is from the Marlborough Stretch north, and the unrestricted
travel call does not include the lockdown arrangements for indigenous communities.
James Cook University (JCU) Professor in Medicine John McBride, who is based at the Cairns Clinical School, said JCU academics were keen to work with the tourism industry in North Queensland to develop guidelines to ensure the safe reopening of the businesses.
Mrs Wheeler said North Queensland did not have the population base of southeast Queensland to support tourism businesses.
"Our regions are so reliant on tourism, I don't believe a one-size-fits-all approach can work
across Queensland, which is why we need an extension on the 250km zone," she said.
"The upcoming school holidays will be an opportunity for many tourism operators.
"And as such, they have been preparing their business to ensure they are COVID safe and adhere to the guidelines laid out by the Federal Government.
"We need to see North Queensland reopen as soon as possible with a travel bubble as well
as fast-tracking our region to Stage 3 to enable businesses to reopen prior to these school
"It will be the start of what is needed to re-energise the North Queensland economy."
Mackay Tourism chief executive officer Tas Webber said the blueprint was there for the plan
to be activated.
"We're calling for what has already been earmarked for the outback region in Stage 2,
where travel within the region for recreational purposes is allowed, is applied to the wider
North Queensland region from Mackay north to Cairns and west to the Northern Territory
border," he said.
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 interstate travel has relaxed due to low infection rates, similar to the situation here
in North Queensland.