Just when our confidence was growing that an announcement of free movement across national borders was imminent, the situation in Victoria has put a dark shadow of doubt over this. While the number of infections in that state highlight the importance of hygiene and social distancing measures, it should not divert us from the path towards a well-managed return to business in Queensland. We will continue to make the case to follow the Roadmap to easing restrictions, including opening of the borders.
Such easing is well supported by the measures in the approved industry plans, including the Tourism and Accommodation Industry COVID-safe Plan. The industry is doing everything it can to operate responsibly, as is also demonstrated by the strong pick-up in Queensland of the COVID-clean practising business checklist (see below). If you have not yet completed the checklist, I strongly recommend it to reassure your customers.
On the upside, the earlier-than-expected easing of travel restrictions within Queensland was an important first step to breathe some life back into tourism. We have reports of a sharp surge in bookings from a number of operators which is encouraging. Certainly not an end to the overwhelming challenges but a light has been turned back on. Those businesses away from major population centres and those with a higher reliance on interstate or international visitors will continue to have a more challenging time. With that in mind, we will continue to advocate strongly on a national stage to keep support measures like JobKeeper in place as long as it is needed. We work closely with our national organisation the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), a collaboration of all state and territory industry councils.
I had an opportunity earlier to visit North Queensland with the Premier and speak to a number of members and operators not only about their current struggles but about their priorities for the recovery. It was important for the Premier to hear directly how COVID-19 is not just a health concern but also an economic and community crisis. The empty streets, idle Reef boats and shut restaurants were a stark backdrop to the visit in Cairns. In Townsville, the important role that tourism, hospitality and events play in this regional economy was equally highlighted by operators and the local government in the meetings we had. Needless to say the Whitsundays, in the most glorious winter weather, also was a sad sight from a business activity point-of-view.
Recent aviation announcements, including the additional Queensland Government funding support bringing the package to $15 million, is welcomed news for airports, regional destinations and operators. Let's hope visitors from the South can fill those planes.
Later this week we will join the Premier and the Treasurer for the second Queensland Industry Recovery Alliance meeting. It is a great forum to speak up for tourism and get some traction for our priorities. If there is any positive side the current crisis is may be the opportunity to think innovatively and boldly about how to make Queensland an even better place to live and work. At QTIC we are also challenging our thinking on such issues as the tourism distribution system and – one of the rapidly emerging issues – the looming insurance crisis, particularly for adventure operators. You will hear more from us in the coming weeks.
Closer to home, I would like to acknowledge a now-former QTIC board member, Simon Latchford. Simon left his position at Visit Sunshine Coast and with that his role as chair of the RTO managers group. As the chair, he also represented the RTOs on the QTIC board. As he did for the Sunshine Coast, Simon made a great contribution to QTIC’s work and his tireless commitment to the industry is greatly appreciated. The RTO Chair position and the role on the QTIC board has now been taken up by Martin Simons, General Manager, Fraser Coast Tourism & Events. We look forward to working with Martin and continue the collaboration with the RTOs.