Chinese tourists Yingwen Jin and Yidie Xu take some holiday photos at the Cairns Marlin Marina, boosting tourism in Far North Queensland. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Chinese tourists Yingwen Jin and Yidie Xu take some holiday photos at the Cairns Marlin Marina, boosting tourism in Far North Queensland. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

‘We’re screwed’: Travel ban will result in staff cuts

LEADING Great Barrier Reef tour operators are considering staff lay-offs and downscaling their operations in the wake of the global coronavirus epidemic.

It comes as Tourism Tropical North Queensland's chief executive Mark Olsen is expected to fly to Brisbane today for an emergency meeting with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tourism Minister Kate Jones about helping the Far North survive the economic impact of the virus.

TTNQ has estimated the region has so far lost $10 million from cancelled bookings last month and up to $25 million for every month international travel bans remain.

 

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators executive director Col McKenzie said prior to coronavirus making headlines, the industry was already facing passenger numbers comparable to the global financial crisis of more than a decade ago.

"At this time of the year, the Chinese tourists make up about 35 per cent of the market," he said.

"Here we are at the worst we've been in, in more than 12 years - in fact some of the guys are saying it's nearly as bad as the pilots' strike already.

"Anyone working in the Chinese market, essentially, is screwed."

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators Executive Officer Col McKenzie. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators Executive Officer Col McKenzie. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

He said several of the region's major dive operators were discussing rationalising their products, including stopping some cruises.

"That means people are going to be unemployed," he said.

He said there needed to be urgent support from the state and federal governments to attract visitors to the region via new air routes.

Advance Cairns chief executive Nick Trompf said there was a need for tourism authorities to rapidly step up marketing of domestic tourism to support the Far North.

"The (travel bans) may take some time to fix, depending on how the virus plays out," he said. "But in the shorter term, this region is absolutely open for business.

"We're beautifully green and fully functional and a beautiful place for Aussies to holiday."

A Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland spokeswoman said the organisation supported calls for the State Government to implement emergency assistance packages to businesses affected by the epidemic.

 

BAN EXTENDED

THE China travel ban is all but certain to be extended beyond two weeks, with the prospect of it lasting a month or more.

Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday said it was likely the 14-day travel ban, which began February 1, would be extended.

"Whilst it's being constantly reviewed and whilst the initial framing is 14 days … we don't expect that it would suddenly be turned off at that point. We expect that it will continue," he said.