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TTNQ CEO statement on coronavirus impact

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen statement:

“There have been more than $10 million in direct bookings in the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region cancelled to date as a result of the coronavirus.

“At this time of the year, Chinese visitors contribute more than $25 million a month to the economy. So it is absolutely essential that we contain the spread of the virus as the first step so this industry and our community can get back to offering amazing visitor experiences to international travellers.

“Tourism Tropical North Queensland members have seen more than 25,000 direct cancellations of experiences and accommodation.

“We do not know the impact from the perception of the Australian bushfires on international travel, but we are seeing a reduction in visitors of between 60 and 70 per cent in January and the forecast is the same for February.

“Over the weekend the announcement by the Australian Government of the closure of Australia to Chinese nationals meant a number of airlines ceased or planned to cease services from China.

“Hainan Airlines announced their flights between Cairns and China would cease on the weekend.

“TTNQ and the Cairns Airport have been working with Hainan and we understand that their 100 plus passengers have found other ways to leave the destination.

“The tourism industry has been fantastic in their support of people who could not leave the destination as planned. We have also been working with our industry to encourage refunds of deposits on trips and accommodation that cannot be used as a result of the travel bans.

“Since the announcement of the outbreak TTNQ has had daily meetings with the Queensland Government, Tourism Australia, Tourism and Events Queensland, Cairns Airport, airlines and all other Queensland regions to provide a seamless experience for visitors looking to come to the region and for those trying to leave to get back with their families.

“Our thoughts are with those who are trying to get home but we are also conscious that our industry is hurting.
“We have invited the Premier and the Tourism Minister to Cairns to meet with the tourism industry on February 14 to discuss the outlook for the industry and how we can work together towards its recovery.

“We have never been in this situation before, so there are no comparatives and therefore no simple solution. The best way is to get around the table and work through the best outcome for the industry. Assistance from the government is essential.

“There are operators who are hurting and we have seen in other crises around the country that financial assistance does benefit small to medium enterprises. Nine out of 10 businesses in tourism are small to medium enterprises and they are feeling an incredible financial strain at the moment.

“The other option is to increase the demand for business so we need funding to continue to drive visitation internationally and domestically into the region.

“Tourism is a $3.5 billion industry that supports nearly 25,000 jobs in Cairns and Great Barrier Reef. One in five people in our community are directly a part of the tourism industry and this flows right through to agriculture, the international education sector, and to pharmacies, cafes and restaurants. Everyone in this community is affected when visitor numbers are down so we need to continue to drive demand.

“TTNQ’s immediate focus is relaunching our Drive North Queensland regional partnership encouraging Queenslanders to holiday here in Queensland. We will also leverage the Tourism Australia campaign both interstate and here in Queensland to encourage Australians to holiday here.

“It’s a beautiful time to be in region, the sky has opened, the waterfalls are flowing and we have clean air. Many Australians have missed out on their summer holiday and we invite them here to Cairns and Great Barrier Reef to enjoy it.

“Once the time is right key international markets like North America and New Zealand will be areas we can target for growth.

“TTNQ is working on a daily basis with our trade partners in China as this is also impacting them. We know that we will recover and we know that those relationships that were founded over the past 20 years in China will continue to be important. We will continue to support those trade partners and the visitors who bring so much to our community economically, socially and environmentally.”