Tourism’s op­er­a­tors dis­cuss when to open

Busi­nesses di­vided over key de­ci­sion

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

TO OPEN or not to open that was the ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s lips at a meet­ing of Whit­sun­day tourism op­er­a­tors on Tues­day night.

Ad­dress­ing a room filled with op­er­a­tors who had been bat­tered by Cy­clone Deb­bie, Tourism Whit­sun­days chief ex­ec­u­tive Craig Turner said there was one mes­sage he wanted to get out - that the Whit­sun­days is “open for busi­ness”.

How­ever, spread­ing that mes­sage was a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge he said.

“We don’t want to put up the open for busi­ness sign too early and then find we make a prom­ise to our cus­tomers who then miss out,” he said.

“We need to be care­ful about how we com­mu­ni­cate be­cause we get one crack at this and I’ll tell you right now, if we pull the trig­ger (too early), they’ll cru­cify us on so­cial me­dia.”

Mr Turner said over the past 10 days, he had been in con­stant con­tact with Queens­land Tourism Min­is­ter Kate Jones and Fed­eral Tourism Min­is­ter Steven Ciobo to dis­cuss a plan for the re­gion.

“The line in the sand, for us, is hav­ing power on,” he said.

“The trig­ger for Tourism Whit­sun­days is, when we get power, when we have those ser­vices, those ex­pe­ri­ences ready to go, when that oc­curs, which we’re hop­ing will be early next week, I am hop­ing that Mon­day next week we’re in a po­si­tion to say we’re open for busi­ness on Wed­nes­day.

“Ms Jones will be here for one day of meet­ings, dis­cus­sions and an­nounce­ments, (which) talks to the size of the re­cov­ery pack­age, to the size of the money they’re go­ing to put into this area, to en­sure that we not only re­cover but quickly get busi­ness go­ing.”

Mr Turner said Ms Jones was pre­pared to fly to the re­gion again on Mon­day or Tues­day af­ter he gave her the nod, to bring a me­dia crew up with her, stand at an iconic lo­ca­tion and an­nounce the Whit­sun­days was open for busi­ness.

While some in the room ap­plauded this idea, for oth­ers it was a bit too am­bi­tious.

Co-owner of Fish D’Vine Kevin Collins said he “couldn’t be­lieve” Tourism Whit­sun­days was talk­ing about “press­ing the but­ton” and ask­ing peo­ple to come back to the re­gion.

He said he had seen hun­dreds of restau­rants go broke be­cause they opened too soon and he didn’t want to see the same thing hap­pen again.

“If this goes too soon, when there’s not one leaf on a tree you’re send­ing peo­ple home with the mes­sage that it’s a de­struc­tion zone,” he said.

“Surely we should draw a breath here and try and get it right and let the paint dry.”

While some op­er­a­tors, shared Mr Collins’s view, oth­ers agreed the quicker the re­gion got back on its feet, the bet­ter.

Ex­plore Whit­sun­days Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and chair of Tourism Whit­sun­days Allen Grundy said the re­gion was heaven but “heaven’s got a lit­tle bit of dam­age at the moment”.

“But it’s still heaven,” he said.

“We need to re­mem­ber that we’ve got about $680,000 beds on the wa­ter so long as they can fill up with fresh wa­ter, those boats are beds we can use.

“We’ve been an­swer­ing phones off the hook and we’re full for two weeks. What do we do? Do we tell ev­ery one of those trav­ellers to go away?

“We just need to work to­gether, to find that (com­mon ground) place.”

It seemed many in the room agreed with Mr Grundy as his piece was fol­lowed by a round of ap­plause.

Other busi­ness own­ers said de­spite the dam­age, back­pack­ers still had Air­lie Beach on their list of des­ti­na­tions to visit in the near fu­ture.

Wedding and pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness own­ers also said de­spite the vi­su­als of Air­lie Beach be­ing im­pacted, wed­dings were still be­ing booked as well as pho­tog­ra­phy ses­sions so it was im­por­tant not to hin­der the process.

De­spite the tragedy which has hit the Whit­sun­days, one thing is cer­tain.

Life must go on.

PHOTO: TH3RD DI­MEN­SION ME­DIA

AERIAL VIEW: A windswept Air­lie Beach in the af­ter­math of TC Deb­bie.

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