The tourism industry is calling for a North Queensland bubble allowing unrestricted travel in the Cairns, Whitsundays, Mackay and Outback regions by 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.
The North Queensland region is from the Marlborough Stretch north and the unrestricted travel call does not include the lockdown arrangements for Indigenous communities.
TTNQ Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen said the North Queensland economy was losing $91 million each week that domestic travel was prohibited and urgently needed to make the most of the school holidays in June and July.
“The tourism economy in North Queensland is worth $6.4 billion annually, supports 37,400 direct jobs and accounts for 25% of the State’s tourism economic impact despite having only 15% of the population,” he said.
“In the Cairns region we are losing $10 million every day that domestic travel is not allowed with $4 million of that coming from Queenslanders travelling to our region.
“It has been more than four weeks since there was a case in North Queensland and in some places it has been eight weeks, while other areas have had no cases, which is well above the 28-day incubation period required by the Chief Health Officer.”
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.
Townsville Enterprise Tourism & Events Director, Lisa Woolfe said North Queensland does not have the population density that the Gold Coast and Brisbane can draw upon to support struggling tourism and hospitality businesses.
“It is unrealistic and not economically viable to place the same set of rules on North Queensland as the South East, which is why we need an extension on the 250 kilometre zone,” Ms Woolfe said.
“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.
“We need to see North Queensland re-open 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 the school holidays, it will be the start of what is needed to re-energise the North Queensland economy.”
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.