Dawn’s ar­rival is pos­i­tive sign

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

THE mes­sage that the Whit­sun­days is “open for busi­ness” has never been clearer with the first cruise ships re­turn­ing to the re­gion.

Pa­cific Dawn de­liv­ered 2000 pas­sen­gers to Abell Point Ma­rina on Thurs­day, the first cruise ship guests to set foot on Whit­sun­day shores since Cy­clone Deb­bie dev­as­tated the re­gion.

They were among 4200 cruise ship pas­sen­gers who landed on Whit­sun­day shores last week. Ra­di­ance of the Seas ar­rived on Fri­day and Pa­cific Dawn vis­ited again on Mon­day.

Vol­un­teer Cruise Ship Am­bas­sadors co-or­di­na­tor Brian Richardson said more than 1200 pas­sen­gers had booked lo­cal tours on Thurs­day, mostly land-based. “They were quite sur­prised at how clean and tidy ev­ery­thing was,” Mr Richardson said. “There was a lot of pos­i­tive feedback out of it.”

The ar­rival of Pa­cific Dawn was ex­pected to pump around $250,000 into the lo­cal econ­omy while op­er­a­tors P&O Cruises an­nounced it would do­nate $10,000 to the cy­clone re­cov­ery.

Bris­bane cou­ple Kelly and Stephen Chard were among the vis­i­tors and said they were keen to check out Air­lie Beach.

“It’s great to get off the boat and see some mu­sic and see that ev­ery­one wants to get back up and go­ing again,” Kelly said.

David Jones, from cruise ship op­er­a­tors Car­ni­val Aus­tralia, said as soon as the com­pany heard Air­lie Beach was cleared to visit, plans were made to re­turn.

“Air­lie Beach and the Whit­sun­days have pulled off a mir­a­cle to ac­cept 2000 cruise ship vis­i­tors weeks af­ter a mas­sive cy­clone has gone through,” Mr Jones said. “We (al­ready) have 48 sched­uled post calls to Air­lie Beach across our or­gan­i­sa­tion next year. That’s roughly $250,000 into the lo­cal econ­omy each visit and around $12 mil­lion for the year next year. This is like a five-star cruise des­ti­na­tion, you’ve got ev­ery­thing.”

Tourism Whit­sun­days chair­man Al Grundy said it was ex­cit­ing times for the cruise ship mar­ket.

“We’re back on our feet,” Mr Grundy said.

“Now we’re jog­ging and in a few weeks we’ll be run­ning at full steam ahead.”

PHOTO: PETER CAR­RUTHERS

GRATE­FUL: Whit­sun­day kids say "thanks" from the heart of the reef.

PHOTO: DANE LILLING­STONE

THEY'RE BACK: Tourism in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives wel­come the ar­rival of cruise ship Pa­cific Dawn.

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