Gavin King

Tropic Now editor

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Cairns tourism industry reeling from Premier's latest advice on reopening Queensland border

The Far North Queensland tourism industry will be decimated if interstate borders remain closed until September.

That's the dire reality facing local operators after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday said September was the most likely timeframe for opening up Queensland's borders.

Less than two weeks ago, the Premier flagged July 10 as a possible restart date for intra and interstate travel, providing a ray of hope for the tourism sector as it grapples with the coronavirus shutdown.

The change is due to advice from Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeannette Young, who yesterday said borders should not reopen until other states had experienced two incubation periods without any new cases.

Based on that advice, Australia would need to record 28 days without any new cases of COVID-19. In the past 24 hours, the nation recorded 11 new cases, including 8 in Victoria.

“The best-case scenario is July, but I think that is very, very unlikely and that is what I have advised the premier,” Dr Young told reporters in Brisbane yesterday.

Michael Nelson from Pinnacle Tourism Marketing said pushing back the border opening to September would be disastrous for an industry that has received zero revenue since March.

Mr Nelson, who represents a range of tourism accommodation properties and attractions across the Far North, told Tropic Now that the industry was ready to welcome domestic visitors, with strict health and hygiene policies in place.

"The industry has not traded since March, and if the borders don't reopen until September we'll be entering our shoulder season, which effectively means we'll go 12 months without income," he said.

"We're ready to go, we’re ready to open, we’re ready to welcome visitors, especially now that we're seeing such low numbers of new cases each day.

"What has changed so much since the road map was released less than two weeks ago for them to deviate so significantly away from that plan of a July reopening of the border?

"The industry is already hemorrhaging - it will be absolutely devastating if we can't welcome visitors until September."

Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch told Tropic Now that a September timeframe would be "devastating" to tourism businesses.

"The industry fell off a cliff overnight and they need some certainty, so I've got serious concerns about why the Premier has now said the border won't reopen until September," he said.

"I've been very supportive of the national Cabinet process and I've been impressed with the way the Premier has worked with the Federal Government through the health crisis.

"But we don't want the health crisis to turn into an economic crisis but that's what will happen to our tourism industry if they have to wait until September. 

"The critical time for our tourism industry is the end of June through to September and October, so the Premier is saying she's going to lock out tourism for an entire year.

"Given that we are going to rely on domestic travel and visitors from the south looking to escape their winter, the prospect of missing out an entire season will be absolutely devastating for areas like Cairns, Port Douglas and the Whitsundays."

Tropic Now is seeking comment from Mayor Bob Manning, the Queensland Tourism Industry Council and others.