Gambaro, Sea World join calls for recovery road map



TOURISM businesses say they need weeks to prepare for the mammoth task of reopening before COVID-19 ­restrictions are eased, as they expect a domestic surge from Queenslanders desperate to leave their homes and support local companies.

Business owners are calling on the Government to prioritise a road map to recovery after the state's tourism operators suffered an estimated $6.5 billion loss amid thousands of job cuts.

Without clear guidelines on how and when they will reopen, some businesses that have been operating for over 10 years fear they will close permanently.

Getaway Sailing owner Darryl Franklin, who has owned his Gold Coast whale watching business since 2010, said he would not operate at all this season due to COVID-19.

His privately run business usually sees about $900 a week in tours, with about 20 people per week, but marina fees of over $8000 per year, insurance and yacht maintenance fees are crushing any chance of survival.

"I won't be operating because we'll probably get another wave of the virus," Mr Franklin said.

"It's a very unknown factor … I need at least a six-month clear run to make positive money.

"If that doesn't happen in the next 18 months, I'll probably have to sell the boat."


Persone head chef Shane Veivers with owner John Gambaro. Picture: Richard Walker/AAP
Persone head chef Shane Veivers with owner John Gambaro. Picture: Richard Walker/AAP

Despite the announcement yesterday that cafes and restaurants might reopen in June, the hospitality industry is ­crying out for a more definite and detailed plan.

John Gambaro, who owns several popular restaurants in Brisbane, said about 80 per cent of his staff had been stood down due to the pandemic, and he was bracing for an ­immense financial loss - especially with no footy fans flocking to Caxton St.

Mr Gambaro said he would like the Government to give a date of reopening to work towards so that teams and suppliers could be prepared.

"We'd also welcome a standard guideline for all hospitality businesses to adhere to in regards to operations, including social distancing moving forward," he said.

"We'd envision a two to four-week period for the entire hospitality industry to be back up and running once the new guidelines have been established."

Sea World chief operating officer Bikash Randhawa said the tourist hotspot on the Gold Coast, which was currently dealing with a monthly upkeep estimated to be in the millions, needed at least six to eight weeks to prepare for a surge in domestic tourism.


Sea World dolphin handler Brooke Pelizzari with Kiama. Picture: Adam Head
Sea World dolphin handler Brooke Pelizzari with Kiama. Picture: Adam Head


"To open our parks, it wouldn't just be turning a switch on, for us we would need four to six weeks before we can open everything up - we do have a plan in place, which would require a lot of effort, not so much the animals, but rides, attractions, shows," he said.

"It would certainly help to have an indication to say OK, we are looking at opening at the end of June, we would have to start working on a range of things to meet that date.

"It's a very complex environment … for us it would be like reopening eight huge businesses all in the one go, so it's a mammoth task, which we're completely capable of doing, but certainly some indication and guidelines would be appreciated."

The tourism industry is hoping to tap into the $56 billion that about five million Australians spent on overseas travel last year, and have said harnessing just 10 per cent of that market would help with some of the estimated $6 billion damage the state's industry had suffered since January.

Whales in Paradise man­aging director Anthony Ardern said the financial loss for his company would be in the millions.



"We've had a 100 per cent downturn in what we're doing … we would have had 1000 passengers pre-booked, but you can count on one hand how many now," Mr Ardern said.

Straddie Adventures owner Mark Jones, who offers kayaking and sandboarding on Stradbroke Island, estimates he's lost a couple of thousand dollars since the shutdown and fears another outbreak of the virus will bring the region "back to square one".

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said companies needed a plan as to how reopening would play out and how they could interpret the health directives.

Mr Gschwind said that although owners, especially small business owners, had suffered devastating impacts, consumers were now ready to shop locally after being in the confines of their homes.

"Small businesses have ­limited capacity to raise funds … it's tough for both (small and bigger businesses) but smaller businesses have less options," he said.

"Some businesses will have significant opportunities … we may not be able to travel too far interstate and certainly not overseas, so I think that's even more incentive for Queenslanders to take advantage of what's here."






Originally published as Gambaro, Sea World join calls for recovery road map