Cairns the beachhead in fight for tourist dollars

It is the battle for the tropics, where the cancellation of more than $20 million in tourism bookings has rocked the north Queensland economy and put a cloud over the entire Sunshine State.

Feb 14, 2020, updated Feb 14, 2020
Source: Wikimedia Commons / Alex Monckton

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Alex Monckton

Today, Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad became the latest State Government minister to visit Cairns amid the ongoing fallout from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Even embattled Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a former tourism chief, headed north this week, hitting Townsville and fielding questions about his response.

To date, various tourism campaigns have been launched, re-launched or brought forward, some of those encouraging people – including Australians – to visit local tourist hotspots not affected by the bushfires. COVID-19 was the unwanted second blow for the tourism industry, one that is still reverberating.

After Morrison on Thursday announced an extension of the inbound travel bans from China, Queensland’s economic outlook darkened. State Tourism Industry Minister Kate Jones criticised Morrison for not doing more to support the tourism and international education sectors through the crisis.

Trad, who has also called on Canberra to facilitate a national response, today announced $3.4 million in fee relief for operators at the Cairns Marina, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

“The Cairns Marina is a vital hub for inbound tourism operators in Far North Queensland,” Trad said, after crisis talks with local operators.

“Whether it’s reef charter vessels or land-side services, marina operators support hundreds of jobs in Cairns.”

“Everyone I’ve listened to here today has reinforced how tough things are for tourism operators after what we now know as COVID-19 struck in January.”

Trad also announced a $660,000 package of relief measures to assist commercial fishers affected by COVID-19.

“The impact of COVID-19 was felt particularly strongly around Chinese New Year, which is normally a huge export opportunity for Queensland seafood,” Ms Trad said.

“So we’re waiving quota fees for rock lobster and coral trout for the first six months of 2020, along with fishing boat fees for these and other fisheries affected by COVID-19, such as mud crabs.”

Trad, a lightning rod for criticism, has a challenging state budget to deliver in April. She recently told InQueensland that the government would not be able to come up with the stimulus to entirely fill the economic gap caused by COVID-19, and the commonwealth would also need to contribute.

She has also faced criticism internally, prompting speculation about her future. Palaszczuk today said she expected the Treasurer to focus on the budget and for all ministers to do their jobs.

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