Queensland ready to reboot

The battered tourism industry is looking ahead to better times.

Australians should start planning their next Queensland holiday.

That’s the message from Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) CEO Daniel Gschwind ahead of the staged relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions that could see domestic travel return.

Mr Gschwind predicted a strong recovery for the Queensland tourism industry once domestic travel restrictions were eased.

He said Australians living in isolation since March would be eager to travel as soon as they were allowed.

Fraser Island

“I believe Australians are busting to get out of their four walls and explore and enjoy what is on offer,” Mr Gschwind said.

“We have all been dreaming of those special places to visit and we may come out of this with a greater appreciation of what is on our doorstep.

“I can see the potential for a strong and fairly speedy recovery of the domestic market.”

Mr Gschwind said there would be a focus on enticing Australians to experience what was on offer in their own country.

He said nearly six million Australians travelled overseas in 2019 for holidays.

“That option is not open for the foreseeable future and should be the prompt for all of us to give the local product another go,” Mr Gschwind said.

“It amazes me how many Queenslanders have not experienced what so many international visitors travel tens of thousands of kilometres to see in our state – the Great Barrier Reef, the outback, tropical north Queensland, hinterland regions from the Gold Coast, to the Central Highlands and the Atherton Tablelands.

“The appeal to Australians to explore more of their own country will be the common call.”

Outback road

Mr Gschwind said in a normal year, international visitors generated about 25 percent of Queensland’s tourism income.

“That is a significant share on average with major ramifications for regions with a relatively higher reliance on international visitors, like Cairns, Brisbane and the Gold Coast,” he said.

“Also, some individual businesses are predominantly focused on international visitors, like backpackers or tour groups, and they will struggle more.

“Inevitably the longer-term closure of our borders will require many of those businesses to try and adjust their services for the domestic market as much as possible.”

Mr Gschwind said tourism operators should look to capitalise on a perceived change of mood among Australians brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown.

“The lockdown has forced all of us to reflect on our busy lives and lifestyles and there seems to be an emerging sentiment that closer-to-home, slower-paced, nature-based, family-focused tourism experiences may be matching the mood,” he said.

“Value for money will be the key for operators to attract customers.”

Gold Coast skyline

Mr Gschwind said the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry and dependent communities had been catastrophic.

“Our $25 billion-a-year industry in Queensland has come to a complete standstill, with billions lost every month now,” he said.

“Perhaps most concerning is the impact on the 240,000 people who are employed in our industry in the state.

“All of their livelihoods and their families have been placed in jeopardy and without the support measures from state and federal governments many more would have lost their jobs.”

However, Mr Gschwind said the industry now had an opportunity to rebuild and emerge even stronger.

“A major disruption like COVID-19 is not only a challenge, it is also an opportunity to re-boot our industry and individual businesses and set us up in a better way for the future,” Mr Gschwind said.

“Change is always hard and in this case it has been forced on us. We might as well make the most of it and rebuild the industry better than it ever was.”

New hygiene standards

Australia’s tourism industry will have to adapt to comply with new health and safety standards when it re-opens for business.

Mr Gschwind said visitors would expect the highest safety and hygiene standards from operators.

“Of course, we will have to assure travellers that we will do everything necessary to keep them COVID-safe,” Mr Gschwind said.

“That is a big focus for us. Meeting the expectations of visitors in that regard will be a critical factor for our competitiveness.”

He said QTIC was working with relevant authorities and the industry to provide consistent and easy-to-implement guidelines.