Tourism’s $6.5 billion blow with fears it could get worse

 

THE last 80 days have seen a staggering financial impact to the Queensland tourism industry, as Tourism Minister Kate Jones revealed the grapples of the coronavirus pandemic has cost the state's industry $6.5 billion to date.

Two and a half months is all it took for the unprecedented economic blow to rattle the industry, with flights from China halted on February 1, and domestic tourism completely annihilated by the shut down of borders shortly afterwards.

Ms Jones today told ABC News she feared the worst could be yet to come.

"We estimate at this stage, that the industry in Queensland alone has copped a $6.5 billion hit and it has affected around 70,000 jobs across Queensland," the Minister said.

"The number one issue confronting the recovery for tourism is having two airlines operating," she said.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones estimates the impact to the tourism industry is $6.5 billion to date. Picture: Annette Dew
Tourism Minister Kate Jones estimates the impact to the tourism industry is $6.5 billion to date. Picture: Annette Dew

The Queensland Government has pledged a conditional $200 million to help the struggling airline, while as of yet, no other jurisdictions have offered assistance.

"If Virgin goes under … it will take us twice as long to try to get back on our feet. We rely on competition in the skies," Ms Jones said.

"I think it is incumbent on all governments to really think hard about the history of the tourism industry when we last saw the collapse of a national carrier in our country.".

Areas of Queensland who rely heavily on the tourism industry are struggling, as the state's north lost more than $200 million worth of cancelled bookings in March alone.

The Great Barrier Reef, which would usually see around 2.2 million visitors a year, and around $5.6 billion in revenue as a result of tourism- will this year be lucky to see only a fraction of that.

According to Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive officer Mark Olsen, the impact to the north is estimated to come at a cost of $500 million by the end of April.

The Great Barrier Reef and parts of the far north are feeling the economic impact to the tourism industry. Picture: Supplied
The Great Barrier Reef and parts of the far north are feeling the economic impact to the tourism industry. Picture: Supplied

While visitors to the state will return following the reopening of borders, and the world slowly resumes air travel, the impact of the global health crisis on cruise ships is likely to be longer lasting, according to Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham.

"Cruise travel, you would expect to be sitting right towards the end, if not the very last thing, that is reactivated again, given the difficulties Australia has faced with the cruise sector," Mr Birmingham told the ABC.

There are fears for the progress of Brisbane's International Cruise Terminal, which was set to bring in over 760,000 visitors each year, as well as worries for upgrades to ports in Townsville and Cairns - which are being expanded to allow for larger ships to enter the state's north regions.

A concept design for the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal. Picture: Channel 7
A concept design for the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal. Picture: Channel 7

 

As of the beginning of this month, recently re-elected Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate backed his proposal for the Gold Coast's very own cruise ship terminal.

On April 2, Mr Tate said the scourge of coronavirus on cruise ships had "not really" swayed public opinion on the terminal.

However, Ms Jones was not as certain.

"My feeling is that a number of projects that were earmarked, will obviously be delayed if demand isn't there."

Originally published as Tourism's $6.5 billion blow with fears it could get worse