Tourism’s hard line delivered to Joyce
TOURISM Whitsundays CEO Craig Turner took a hard line when the acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce visited the region on Saturday in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.
From the outset of the meeting with the Whitsunday Chamber of Commerce, Mr Turner drilled home the importance of the Whitsundays being open for business and the role tourism plays in the Whitsunday economy.
Mr Joyce asked what the Whitsundays needed from the Federal Government.
To which Mr Turner outlined a marketing strategy which would reshape the public perception of the Whitsundays after the touch-down of Debbie and he also flagged investment in road infrastructure.
“Yes we got affected but once the power comes back on on Monday we are open for business,” he said.
“We need the message to be, we are ready to go... we need people here next week. Not in four months’ time.”
Mr Turner stated the domestic market made up 68% of visitor numbers and the local market needed to be the focus of the campaign.
Concerns were raised that the new flights entering the Whitsundays from Sydney and Melbourne – which began just days before Cyclone Debbie – would be cancelled if passenger numbers weren’t sufficient.
A figure of up to $5 million for promotion and marketing was pitched by Mr Turner.
“But it needs to be a long-arm approach. It can’t be a shot in the arm and it stops. It needs to be a 12-month campaign in which we actually drive visitation,” the TW CEO said.
Opposition leader Tim Nicholls asked if visitors coming to the Whitsundays so soon after the touch-down of a Category Four cyclone would have a “lesser experience”.
“No, they will not. We who live here know what it looked like prior, we have our own reference point, we know what it was like,” Mr Turner said.
Mr Turner assured Mr Joyce, Mr Nicholls, and Federal Member for Dawson, George Christensen, that there were more than 1000 beds available in the Whitsundays.
But right now many hotels are housing emergency services workers and Ergon Energy crews.
Mr Turner said moving workers to Bowen and asking them to commute an hour each way would free up more beds for holidaying guests.
Talk then shifted to lacking infrastructure which in January was responsible for trapping tourists when Hamilton Plains, Crofton and Myrtle Creeks left Airlie Beach and Cannonvale completely cut off from the Bruce Hwy.
After Debbie, for the same reason, many had to wait for two days before outside help could make it through.
TOURISM TALKS: Members of the Whitsunday Chamber of Commerce meet with acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, leader of the opposition Tim Nicholls, member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan and member for Dawson George Christensen at the Coral Sea Resort in Airlie Beach.
Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Tourism Whitsunday CEO Craig Turner at the Coral Sea Resort.