Virus fears: 42,000 jobs on the line

A FURIOUS Gold Coast tourism boss says the State Government is not doing enough to protect its golden goose from the coronavirus crisis.

Destination Gold Coast chief executive Annaliese Battista yesterday criticised the Government's pledge to spend $2 million on a rescue plan to offset the heavy losses from the booming Chinese market.

The Chinese market has dropped off after the outbreak of Coronavirus (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

She says the money should not be divided equally among Queensland centres, given the Gold Coast is the "titan" of the state tourism industry and attracts more than half of the Chinese market.

"We need to prop up our economy because tourism is the bedrock of it," she said.

"This cannot be a case of everyone gets a prize - the Gold Coast and Cairns will be the most heavily affected because of the number of Chinese visitors we get.

"We are the titans of the Queensland tourism industry and our $6 billion contribution is 40 per cent of the Gold Coast's entire economy - this is 42,000 jobs and 3500 businesses.

Gold Coast Tourism CEO Annaliese Battista at the meeting. Picture Glenn Hampson
Gold Coast Tourism CEO Annaliese Battista at the meeting. Picture Glenn Hampson

"The tourism sector is hurting badly as a result of the bushfires and the coronavirus - there is widespread panic in the sector and this could get worse. Just look at the bushfires - people thought an impact of $1 billion was too much - now it's north of $4.5 billion and counting."

Early estimates suggest the coronavirus outbreak could cost the Gold Coast $40 million as the Chinese market weakens.

However, tourism bosses are bracing for much worse and say it could take years to recover.

The outbreak has affected 27 countries and territories across the world, killing more than 362 people.

There are now 12 cases within Australia and more than 17,393 globally.

With tour groups and travellers abandoning plans to visit the city in droves, Destination Gold Coast says the city needs the funding to bolster plans for a $10 million campaign to promote it as a destination both domestically and internationally.

Ms Battista said the State Government should inject $5 million immediately into the Gold Coast tourism sector so it can heavily target international markets such as New Zealand.

The rest of the money would come from Destination Gold Coast coffers and the Gold Coast City Council.

On Saturday, the Bulletin revealed Destination Gold Coast would launch a $2 million tourism campaign targeting the lucrative over-50s market.

More than 273,000 Chinese visitors came to the Coast in the 12 months to September 2019, 9000 more than Brisbane. The total number for the regional catchment which included Bundaberg, Mackay, Outback Queensland, Townsville and the Whitsundays was 231,000.

The Bulletin understands senior Palaszczuk Government figures will meet this week to make decisions on how to economically respond to the crisis.

Destination Gold Coast bosses will front Gold Coast City Council on February 11 to ask for it to contribute to the recovery fund.

The Federal Government will also be approached.

Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the Gold Coast would receive significant focus in the state's plans to boost the industry.

"The tourism industry is hurting right now," she said.

"That's why we've already actioned a multimillion-dollar domestic campaign to deliver an immediate shot-in-the-arm for tourism operators.

"I've been working closely with (Destination Gold Coast chair) Paul Donovan over the last week and can assure Gold Coasters that the Coast will be a strong focus of recovery efforts in weeks and months to come.

"(Federal Tourism Minister) Simon Birmingham has assured all state ministers that he will provide support to the industry and we will work with him and the Federal Government."