Local tourism industry fears the slow road to recovery

Whilst the staggered easing of restrictions announced by State Government earlier this week was initially received as a welcome step in the right direction for many, not everyone has found cause for celebration.

As tourism and private sector operators nervously commence a nail-biting wait through their third month behind closed doors, many are expressing concern that even with the roadmap dates released, some face many months of no income as the number limits restrict their ability to make a profit, let alone cover costs.

With local operators now experiencing zero cash flow and stressfully awaiting delayed financial aid, this one-size-fits-all mentality is set to further cripple the tourism industry into the coming months. As at the 12th May, there were 0 cases in CQ with all 8 cases recovered, no new cases in nearly six weeks, and only 18 active cases in Queensland.

Capricorn Enterprise CEO, Mary Carroll says that while the gradual easing of restrictions might be appropriate for the southeast Queensland region, it is already causing more stress for some Central Queensland business owners, who simply cannot afford to reopen under the guideline limitations.

“It is simply not viable for business to function under these limited guidelines of allowing only 10 patrons in their facilities,” said Mary. “The overheads involved with operating a large business such as Keppel Bay Sailing Club, Frenchville Sports Club, Rockhampton’s CocoBrew and many others while welcoming only 10 patrons far outweigh the income made.”

“Whilst we appreciate a timeline, more questions have been raised than answered. For example, you can travel on a bus to your destination but cannot board a ferry to Great Keppel Island. You can stand in a crowded line at Bunnings or Woolworths, but can only visit an attraction with 10-20 others,” said Mary.

Keppel Explorer Owner, Scott Ryan, shared his concerns regarding the eased restrictions. “Operating for 5hours visiting 5 islands with only two passengers is just not financially viable. Until social distancing restrictions are at least eased for tourism experiences, it’s definitely not worth re-opening,” said Scott.

While Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary was optimistic of reopening their doors to the public for the June/July school holidays, the imposed restrictions on wildlife parks, including no animal encounters or experiences due to social distancing rules, will see them struggle at least until September.

“These restrictions are unworkable for us as our point of difference is the opportunity for guests to get up and close to the animal and enjoy an experience that is unique,” said Cooberrie Park’s Kieron Smedley.

“The limitation on only allowing 20 visitors is not worth us opening as it will not provide enough funds to cover our overheads.”

Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary recently celebrated the announcement of vital Federal funding that would support the animals and help staff to continue their duty of care to local wildlife residents. However, the much-needed funding has been delayed and every day, the team waits for the nod from the trade office.

“Just as Capricorn Enterprise has consistently lobbied on behalf of our members and broader industry in relation to payroll and land tax relief, funding to assist our wildlife parks, and more, I have and will continue to raise a number of issues on regular teleconference calls with our State colleagues,” said Mary.

Capricorn Enterprise is pleading for the State Government to reconsider adjusting the road map to help answer the many queries that industry have raised. “While we welcome a timeline for recovery, it goes nowhere near what our struggling tourism industry needs to survive.”

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