Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

CHRIST­MAS cheer is spread­ing through the Whit­sun­days as lo­cals pre­pare to cel­e­brate what is ex­pected to be a bumper fes­tive sea­son for our tourism op­er­a­tors.

Cruise Whit­sun­days chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Nick Hor­tle said he was so con­fi­dent of a high de­mand for day cruises that two ves­sels had been sched­uled to the Great Bar­rier Reef on se­lected days start­ing this week.

Mr Hor­tle said be­tween Box­ing Day and Jan­uary 6, there would also be an ad­di­tional ves­sel vis­it­ing White­haven Beach.

“It is an ex­cel­lent sign that tours are book­ing out so far in ad­vance [and] I think the re­gion will have a huge hol­i­day pe­riod,” he said.

Pin­na­cles Re­sort owner Sue Wat­son said she hadn’t seen a De­cem­ber this busy in a long time.

“Book­ing lead times are get­ting shorter and shorter th­ese days but we are al­ready heav­ily booked all the way through to the end of Jan­uary which is a wel­come change to nor­mal,” she said. Ms Wat­son said she was also notic­ing a big in­crease in in­ter­na­tional visi­tors.

A spokesper­son from Hamil­ton Is­land said the is­land had ex­pe­ri­enced record oc­cu­pancy in 2013 with Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber be­ing the strong­est months.

“Th­ese healthy oc­cu­pancy fig­ures are be­ing re­peated in De­cem­ber and Hamil­ton Is­land is look­ing for­ward to wel­com­ing guests to the is- land to cel­e­brate the fes­tive sea­son,” the spokesper­son said. Mean­while, around the re­gion, fam­i­lies have been em­brac­ing the Christ­mas spirit with some tak­ing their Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions to new heights. In­cluded in this are the Har­ri­son fam­ily whose gar­den ar­range­ment at their Su­gar­loaf home has been pulling in a crowd of passers-by.

MERRY CHRIST­MAS: Sa­man­tha Har­ri­son, Amy Walsh, Dar­ryl San­ders, Adam Smith, San­dra Walsh, Veron­ica Black, Jamie San­ders, Wil­liam Smith, Lynett Har­ri­son, Har­riet Black, Josh Smith, Jes­sica Smith and Sarah Black (front), Jen­nifer Smith, Ni­cholas and Barry San­ders and Mitchell Walsh (back) and Stephen Har­ri­son (in­side the truck), are all en­joy­ing this thor­oughly fes­tive Christ­mas set-up in the front gar­den of the Har­ri­son's Su­gar­loaf home.

HO HO HO: Santa has been in the Whit­sun­days tak­ing a hol­i­day ahead of his 32-hour around-the-world Christ­mas Eve jour­ney. He is pic­tured here on the Hamil­ton Is­land golf course.

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