Marketing money coming our way
CYCLONE Debbie wreaked havoc on a sizeable portion of the east Australian coast but there was one place that endured the full wrath of a category four storm – and that was the Whitsundays.
This is the message Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox and Tourism Whitsundays chief executive Craig Turner have taken to the Queensland and Commonwealth governments with respect to the slice of available funding the region should receive.
With $10 million of combined federal and state money on the table to rejuvenate Queensland tourism in the cyclone’s wake, these two Whitsunday advocates have been fighting for the region to have its fair share.
“We’ve forecast that we’ll lose $235 million in tourism over the next three months – and that’s conservative, based on three months worth of visitation and tours,” Mr Turner said.
“These are significant numbers. We’re not making this up. Look at the radar, at the map when (the cyclone) came in.
“It actually hit a place called the Whitsundays. It didn’t hit a place called Rockhampton or the Gold Coast. The big red dot was on us.”
Cr Willcox said the Whitsundays needed the money to rebuild and get “back on track”.
“And when ministers (Kate) Jones and (Steven) Ciobo were here at the Port of Airlie to announce the $10 million funding, we said straight away then, ‘We’re the ones that have been impacted by the cyclone’ – and we’ve been consistent with that message right the way through.”
Of the $10 million available, $7 million is for infrastructure projects to drive visitation, $2 million is for marketing and $1 million for famils and public relations.
Mr Turner said he and the mayor had been on the phone, in cars and on planes to and from Brisbane and “in their ear” constantly about how much the Whitsundays could expect.
And already this has yielded results.
On Friday, a campaign was announced supported by Virgin Australia and Infinity Holidays offering discounted airfares dependent on a minimum of four nights accommodation.
While the areas included are the Whitsundays, Gold Coast and far-north Queensland, Minister for Tourism Kate Jones said there would be an exclusive promotion of the Whitsundays during the month of June.
Mr Turner said starting with the ‘Welcome Back’ PR activation on Whitehaven Beach last Wednesday, continuing into this Friday’s Channel 7 Sunrise broadcast from Airlie Beach, Bowen and Hamilton Island, and flowing into a raft of marketing campaigns, “the activity is around making people realise the
Whitsundays is still a genuine holiday destination”.
The region is also set to appear on Channel 7’s Queensland Weekender program, in addition to print advertising in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and regional Queensland, as well as paid TV coverage backed up with social media.
Marketing campaigns are also planned with industry partners including Tigerair and Jetstar.
Meanwhile, Mr Turner said a working group to look at infrastructure opportunities funded from the $7 million pool had already been established, with Cr Willcox as chair.
He said projects already on the table prior to the cyclone included a circuit walking track at Whitehaven Beach, on-water and camping activities at the Peter Faust Dam, agritourism opportunities in Bowen, and the potential for a cable car at Airlie Beach.
And if these things come off, it won’t be by accident, he said.
“If there hadn’t been such strong advocacy over such a long period and with all the government stakeholders, this money could have ended up on the Gold Coast.”
Cr Willcox said negotiations, particularly with the State Government, had been helped by its pre-existing relationship with the council.
“When I became mayor, I said to everybody that I was going to build relationships in George Street and Canberra, just to make sure it was known that ‘hey, we are the Whitsundays, we’ve got a new team, we’re open for business and we want the place to go ahead’,” he said.
“And now we’ve fostered that and they’ve given us very good support.”
Mr Turner was equally full of praise for the co-operation and support offered to the region in its greatest time of need.
“When we’ve needed decision-makers, they’ve made sure they were here in an instant,” he said.
WELCOME BACK: Last week’s photo shoot on Whitehaven Beach was the first of a long line of marketing initiatives for the Whitsundays. PHOTO: PHILL GORDON / RIPTIDE CREATIVE