Tourism in Action: Daniel Gschwind (July)

As our industry keeps getting tossed about on a sea of uncertainty caused by cyclone COVID, a distant lighthouse has appeared, guiding us to the Olympics in 2032. That is indeed good news and we are genuinely excited by the prospects ahead.

Now we just have to get there in one piece and that still is an enormous challenge for many operators. We may feel somewhat fortunate in Queensland for having escaped the latest lock-down episode interstate but this is cold comfort for the thousands of operators here who have lost millions of dollars worth of bookings, not just for now but a long way into the future, not least the September school holidays. While we may enjoy our relative freedom here, our interstate customers are cut off from us. NSW alone supplied 1.8 million visitors to Queensland in 2019, spending $1.6 billion dollars in our state.

The losses from that state alone are mounting up into hundreds of millions. Unfortunately, we also had to add Victoria and South Australia to the ‘lost business’ side of the ledger for the last few weeks and we hope, with restrictions easing in both states today, Queensland’s borders will open promptly for them. The recent national tourism business survey we conducted, paints a sobering picture, including for Queensland. It also highlights the fact, that whilst not in lock-down, Queensland operators are also feeling the financial strain imposed as a result of border closures. We are making a strong case to both state and federal governments that industry support must be made available to all businesses in our industry affected so devastatingly by the government health responses.

On another matter, you may have heard of the World Heritage Committees decision to defer a determination about the ‘in danger’ listing of the Great Barrier Reef. The expert report provided to the Committee made a recommendation that the Reef should be placed on the endangered list as a result of the long-term impacts expected from global warming in particular. The Australian Government campaigned very hard at the diplomatic level to avert this outcome. As a consequence, the Committee decided to call for a ‘reactive mission report’ and a ‘state of conservation report’ to be prepared for the Committee by February 2022. The issue will then be revisited.

Some tourism operators felt a great sense of relief that the ‘reef in danger’ media headlines has, for the moment, been avoided. That is very understandable, we don’t want the reef to be seen in a negative light. The point is also being made that our reef is still a magnificent ecosystem with spectacular corals and marine life – still one of the worlds greatest natural visitor attractions and exceptionally well managed. This world-leading, on-the-ground management of the marine park is also recognised by the World Heritage Committee. However, the listing on the endangered list is not an assessment of that. It is an assessment of the long-term, increasing threat to this ecosystem from global climate change. This threat has been identified and scientifically documented by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in multiple reports over the last decade. The deferral of a decision by the World Heritage Committee makes no difference at all to the urgent need for all nations on the planet to urgently step up efforts to address climate change. Our reef and our tourism industry depend on it.