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