Queensland tourism operators are “pinning its hopes” on a swift reopening of the state’s borders despite the premier’s suggestion of locking out southerners until September.
On Monday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk cited coronavirus transmissions in Victoria and NSW as one of the reasons to extend the border closure for the short-term future.
She told the ABC “things would look more positive towards September”.
“We want to welcome as many people to the Sunshine State as soon as possible where it’s beautiful one day, perfect the next, but of course we just can’t do that at the moment.”
The proclamation dismayed Queensland’s tourism chief Daniel Gschwind, who said businesses are “hanging on by their fingernails” and had been banking on a domestic tourism revival over winter.
Mr Gschwind, CEO of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, said Queensland was ready to take advantage of “pent-up demand” and welcome interstate visitors after a very difficult couple of months.
“We’re trying to stay calm and hope to see a swift reopening of the borders as soon as possible,” said Mr Gschwind, indicating they had been hoping for July.
“It’s what will be the driving force to rebooting the domestic tourism market.”
He said the industry was “pinning its hopes” on Ms Palaszczuk’s promise to review the government’s border closure decision each month.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday attacked the Queensland premier’s tough stance, saying that the sooner people could travel interstate, the quicker the economy would recover.
“We have to get real to the fact many parts of the world will remain closed for a long period of time,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“But if we in Australia can at least open up our internal borders, I think that will help everybody.”
With overseas travel unlikely in the near future, state tourism bodies are pouring resources into domestic marketing campaigns, which are expected to be rolled out as soon as restrictions are eased.
Mr Gschwind said domestic tourists accounted for almost three-quarters of visitors to Queensland, and winter was a peak period.
Queensland welcomed a record 25.9 million domestic visitors in the year to December 2019, an increase of 9.6 per cent, with 8.13 million of them from interstate (up 13.7 per cent).
“Then you throw in on top of that the Australians who would normally travel overseas – that’s six million Australians who spend about $50 billion overseas, a staggering amount,” Mr Gschwind said.
“If we can tap into some of that, it would go a long way to restore the viability of tourism.”
Usually in May, outback Queensland tourism operators would be anticipating waves of grey nomads – including at the popular Nindigully bush pub near St George in the state’s south-west.
Publican Steve Burns said up to 200 meals would be served daily over the peak winter period and each day there would be up to 70 caravans parked outside.
But for now, he must be content with the company of a handful of local farmers.
Meanwhile, Tourism Tropical North Queensland has begun rolling out domestic marketing campaigns to entice visitors from within the current permitted driving limit of 150 kilometres.
Chief executive Mark Olsen said he hoped interstate campaigns would kick off in July-August to encourage southerners to venture north over the September-October school holidays.
Queensland Police have been patrolling the state’s borders with NSW and the Northern Territory since March 27, intercepting a total of 188,661 people and turning away 2419.
Over that period, police directed 8433 people at the land borders to enter quarantine.
Queensland’s chief medical officer Dr Jeannette Young said she believed borders should not reopen until other states had experienced two incubation periods without any new cases.
“The best-case scenario is July, but I think that is very, very unlikely and that is what I have advised the premier,” she said.