AIR­LIE'S SUN­RISE

Whit­sun­days’ post­cy­clone mes­sage makes na­tional TV

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - PHOTO: DANE LILLINGSTONE

SINGING PRAISES: Shan­non Noll poses with a “thank you to Vol­un­teer Whit­sun­days” sign.

SHE’S a na­tional TV star used to broad­cast­ing hu­man sto­ries to Aus­tralian homes five times a week, but Sa­man­tha Army­tage couldn’t help but be touched by what she saw in a Whit­sun­days re­cov­er­ing from Cy­clone Deb­bie last week.

“I am amazed at how well this re­gion has started to re­cover in just five weeks,” she said from the Air­lie Beach fore­shore on Fri­day.

“I think the peo­ple here are so won­der­ful, so re­silient.

“The spirit in the com­mu­nity is huge, it’s un­break­able.

“It’s been lovely to be back here.”

Ms Army­tage said af­ter be­ing in the Whit­sun­days to re­port on the dev­as­ta­tion of Cy­clone Deb­bie in March, she and her col­leagues on the pop­u­lar Chan­nel 7 Sun­rise show had promised they’d be back.

“Be­cause of­ten TV crews come into a dis­as­ter sit­u­a­tion then move on and ev­ery­one for­gets about it to be hon­est, but we are peo­ple of our word and here we are,” she said.

“My mes­sage to Aus­tralia is come and visit.

“I can tell you first hand it is open for busi­ness.”

Crowds flocked to the Air­lie Beach fore­shore to get a glimpse of Sun­rise in ac­tion – an event made pos­si­ble through the ef­forts of Tourism Whit­sun­days and Tourism and Events Queens­land and in con­junc­tion with a string of post-cy­clone mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Ms Army­tage was front and cen­tre, with fre­quent live crosses from Air­lie Beach, while her col­leagues Bianca Stone and Ed­wina Bartholomew broad­cast from Hamil­ton Is­land and Bowen re­spec­tively, with Kochie hold­ing the fort in the Chan­nel 7 Syd­ney studio.

On the ground in Air­lie Beach there were in­ter­views with prom­i­nent fig­ures such as Whit­sun­day Mayor An­drew Will­cox and tourism chief Craig Turner as well as the team from Whit­sun­day Fam­ily Prac­tice who saved lives with their pop up hospi­tal in the cy­clone’s im­me­di­ate wake.

Whit­sun­day res­i­dent Maz McDougall had a sign, do­nated by Trop­i­cal Signs, made up specif­i­cally for the event be­cause she wanted to show the world the com­mu­nity’s thanks for the Vol­un­teer Whit­sun­days group.

“(It was) just to show how much the town has ap­pre­ci­ated all their work, the do­na­tions they man­aged to get, the chain­saw­ing they did, the GIVE shop they helped open, and also just for the com­mu­nity spirit that they man­aged to band to­gether af­ter the cy­clone,” she said.

Per­haps the big­gest high­light of the morn­ing though was a live per­for­mance from Shan­non Noll, who sang his smash hit What About Me? and his brand new sin­gle South­ern Sky.

Broad­cast live across the na­tion, Whit­sun­day stake­hold­ers agreed the en­tire ex­er­cise was an­other im­por­tant step in let­ting the world know that the Whit­sun­days was well and truly open for busi­ness.

Tourism Whit­sun­days CEO Craig Turner said the mes­sage was clear.

“I know it sounds like you hear it over again, but the re­al­ity is peo­ple can fly in from Bris­bane, Syd­ney, Mel­bourne and they can ac­tu­ally have a Whit­sun­day hol­i­day where they can be treated to a great des­ti­na­tion by peo­ple that run busi­nesses here. They can do tours, stay in great ho­tels, eat at great restau­rants... we are ac­tu­ally ready to wel­come vis­i­tors again,” he said.

“This is about get­ting as much reach as we can and high­light­ing what the Whit­sun­days looks like right now.

“It’s not about brochures or what we put out last year, it’s about what the vis­i­tors can ex­pect to see when they hop on a plane and ar­rive at ei­ther Hamil­ton Is­land Air­port, or Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port.”

Mr Turner said get­ting Sun­rise to the re­gion was part of a $2 mil­lion mar­ket­ing cam­paign.

PHO­TOS: SHARON SMALL­WOOD / PETER CAR­RUTHERS

LEFT: Set­ting up for a live cross on Sun­rise in Air­lie Beach. INSET: Sam Army­tage, of Sun­rise, pre­pares for Fri­day’s pro­gram.

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