The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Buoyant Queensland tourism operators refuse to sink

- JEREMY PIERCE

This is a unique attraction in Australia and we think it is something people will want to experience

Andrey Alexeenko

BOLD Queensland tourism operators are bravely launching new attraction­s in the midst of the coronaviru­s pandemic which has decimated the industry.

While the $13bn blow to tourism has sparked fears hundreds of businesses won’t survive, that hasn’t stopped entreprene­urs launching new ventures ranging from Gold Coast glamping sites to Moreton Bay tours and even submarine journeys on the Brisbane River.

The new wave of business activity comes as new data reveals Easter has been a bonanza for travel operators while January was the busiest month for Queensland’s tourism industry since the COVID-19 crisis began.

New data shows close to 146,000 people flew into Queensland’s big airports at Easter with 50,000 hitting the Gold Coast, 38,000 going to Cairns, 40,000 to Brisbane and 17,900 to the Sunshine Coast.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the results were pleasing.

“After a tough year for our tourism industry, things are starting to look up for many operators in some of our most important visitor destinatio­ns,” she said.

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said Easter and the school holidays had delivered an economic boost for some destinatio­ns.

“We’ve had encouragin­g reports of Easter occupancy rates seeing positive growth and continuing into the school holidays,” he said.

The surge comes on top of a successful Christmas school holiday period, where the latest Tourism Research Australia (TRA) figures show that, despite a Brisbane lockdown, January brought the most visitors and visitor spend for Queensland in a year.

Visitors spent $1.9bn in Queensland in January 2021, up from $1.3bn in December 2020, according to TRA’s National Visitor Survey.

DownUnder Submarines had planned to launch last year, but will instead start Brisbane River cruises next month, with plans to commence dive trips off the Sunshine Coast a month later.

Business owner Andrey Alexeenko said he was confident of success for the only Australian submarine tourist operation, despite the struggles of the industry.

“I don’t see any problems,” he said. “This is a unique attraction in Australia and we think it is something people will want to experience.”

River to Bay has already started operating tours taking in Moreton Bay’s most impressive sights from the Tangalooma wrecks to the St Helena prison ruins.

It is the brainchild of RiverLife boss John Sharpe, who also said he was prepared to back its success.

“We believe next year will be really strong, so we’re committed to hang in there this year,” he said. “By the time everything comes back it will be a pretty well-oiled machine, so we will be sweet.”

Thunderbir­d Park in the Gold Coast hinterland has also made a considerab­le investment, opening the first three of 25 new glamping tents this week.

“Glamping at Thunderbir­d Park is a perfect example of the tourism industry rebuilding better for the changing tastes and expectatio­ns of visitors to Queensland,” Mr Hinchliffe said.

 ?? Picture: Tara Croser ?? DownUnder Submarines’ Andrey Alexeenko is launching his business next month.
Picture: Tara Croser DownUnder Submarines’ Andrey Alexeenko is launching his business next month.
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