North's plan to restart coronavirus-hit tourism industry

Recovery plan to target domestic, New Zealand tourists

North Queensland tourism operators will look to capitalise on mothballed international tourism when coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are eased to allow the restart of domestic travel.

The region’s peak promotional body, Townsville Enterprise, has revealed a three-phase plan to help the North Queensland industry recover from the pandemic’s impacts.

The North Queensland Tourism, Events and Hospitality Recovery Plan aims to support the industry that has been “hit first and hardest get back on its feet”. 

A key part of that fightback will be luring Australians who would usually be looking to travel overseas to North Queensland for holidays and events.

Townsville Enterprise Tourism and Events Director Lisa Woolfe said Australians usually took more than nine million trips abroad each year and spent in excess of $60 billion on international travel.

Townsville tourism photo

“Given they aren’t able to travel overseas at the moment, this is a big opportunity, but has significant challenges since the entire nation will also be targeting domestic travellers,” Ms Woolfe said.

“We have strengths in the domestic market and we plan on using these strengths strategically and applying a targeted marketing approach, as geographic boundaries reopen to assist the industry in bouncing back faster.”

The recovery plan includes three phases – remain, re-emerge and re-imagine.

The “remain” phase refers to the current situation which focuses on keeping the industry alive and engaged, ensuring the destination retains a high profile, and building a database of future travellers.

The second “re-emerge” phase will be triggered as domestic restrictions begin to lift, with the focus on building visitor demand, encouraging travel, enabling businesses to re-open and rebuilding the destination. 

Townsville tourism photo

The “re-imagine” phase starts when the focus turns to opportunities in the proposed trans-Tasman bubble which would allow connections into New Zealand and, longer term, the international market.

Townsville Enterprise CEO Patricia O’Callaghan said the organisation had been focused on the first phase of the strategy to support the tourism industry for some time.

“We couldn’t sit and wait to be handed a recovery strategy,” said Ms O’Callaghan.

“We have a comprehensive understanding of our region’s tourism and hospitality businesses and will continue to work with industry and government at all levels to get through the many challenges that lay ahead of us.” 

North Queensland’s tourism, events and hospitality industry supports more than 7000 jobs and contributes more than $1.2 billion annually to the region’s economy.