‘There’s more to Airlie’
Lagoon isn’t everything, journalists on recovery trip are told
“THE lagoon doesn’t define Airlie Beach.”
This is what Paul Burfitt, owner of Airlie Beach restaurant The Treehouse, told tourism operators and journalists visiting the Whitsundays last week.
Mr Burfitt’s restaurant sits right beside the lagoon precinct, a precinct currently looking a little the worse for wear thanks to Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
During the cyclone buildings and structures at the lagoon were damaged, and on the evening of March 29, the pool filled with sewage overflowing from the nearby toilets and pump station.
Just last week, Whitsunday Regional Council announced it would be the end of August before the popular facility was fixed, but Mr Burfitt, as one of the business people in closest proximity, has managed to remain upbeat.
Hosting six out of town journalists at a luncheon on Friday, he admitted “it doesn’t look terribly pretty at the moment”.
“(But) in the meantime I can tell you we’ve got a new ‘sight’ in town,” he joked.
“A lot of people are coming and taking photos of the (empty) lagoon.
“They’re still coming down to the area, there’s still things to do and see here.
“The lagoon doesn’t define Airlie Beach.
“The lagoon is just one of the many, many things you can do in Airlie Beach.”
Nonetheless, Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce president Allan Milostic said the closure of the lagoon was having a flow-on effect.
“The difference the lagoon makes is as simple as the backpackers staying more nights,” he explained.
“While the boat numbers might still be okay, the run-off into the town and other businesses isn’t happening at the moment.
“The lagoon being closed is having a big impact on both the visitors and the businesses in the (Airlie Beach) main street.”
Mr Milostic said while initially shocked at how long the lagoon would take to fix, he was sympathetic towards the council, who certainly weren’t to blame.
And he agreed “the lagoon isn’t everything”.
“But the lagoon is pretty special and it’s an easy place for backpackers to come and socialise,” he said.
Mr Burfitt however, reminded the journalists from out of town “a bad day in Airlie Beach is better than a good day anywhere else”.
“So to the media – please talk the facts, (say how) everything is, (but remember) this is a wonderful spot, it’s a really good place to live and enjoy – and it’s a great place if you want to come and visit and just chill out,” he said.
Visiting media were brought to the Whitsundays courtesy of Tigerair and hosted by Tourism Whitsundays as part of a cyclone recovery famil.
As well as eating at The Treehouse they sampled food from several other local restaurants, stayed in a variety of accommodation and took trips throughout the region.
Highlights were a sunset cruise on the tall ship Solway Lass, trips to Proserpine, Whitehaven Beach and the reef, and an afternoon at the cyclone benefit concert, Whitsunday Sessions, with all profits donated to the SES.
UPBEAT: Debra and Paul Burfitt hosting a cyclone recovery famil luncheon at their Airlie Beach Treehouse restaurant last week.