Tourism industry needs continuing support, says Entsch

TOURISM

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch is calling on continued support for the tourism industry. Image: Karlie Brady.
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There is absolutely no doubt that the federal government will need to continue to support Port Douglas businesses (and Cairns) in some capacity and in moving forward, Warren Entsch, the Federal Member for Leichhardt, said in a speech to Parliament last night.

“It would be a crying shame for us to have successfully overcome the health and economic challenges – and we will and there’s no doubt about that – only to realise that we no longer have a tourism industry to showcase our natural beauty to the world.

“We need to continue the support,” he said.

Entsch said the staggering drop in tourism dollars represents the livelihood of somebody’s mum, dad, sister, brother, aunty, uncle or loved one.

“The Morrison government is absolutely committed to working with the sector to address the challenges that have emerged and continue to emerge during COVID-19.”

Entsch’s comments were well received by the region’s tourism body Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD).

“The Hon Warren Entsch, Member for Leichhardt eloquently described the continued strain tourism and the region is facing with prolonged travel uncertainty and the lack of visitors. 

“Our industry is calling for targeted and temporary support to survive the current downturn so we are still here for the global tourism rebound expected over the coming years.

“I am fully supportive of the position tabled by our member in Canberra,” said Tara Bennett, TPDD CEO.

Tourism has surpassed the sugar industry to become the lynchpin of the economy for the Douglas region.

 Figures from Tourism and Events Queensland demonstrate that, with an 80% economic reliance on tourism, the Douglas Shire ranks as the most tourism dependent region in Australia.

Before the pandemic, this region attracted 1.2 million visitors annually, exploring the many natural wonders, and agriculture of sugar cane farming and processing.

Ms Bennett, meanwhile, provided a snapshot, which she sent to Dan Tehan, the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, of the Douglas Shire and what’s happened since March 2020:

  • Pre-COVID regional GRP of $730M with $574M from visitor spend;
  • Agriculture is 2nd largest industry with output of $68m per year;
  • Year ending September 2020 the visitor market dropped from $574m down to $339m;
  • 60%+ drop in visitor spend; $344m forecast by June 2021 bringing this down to $230m;
  • 2,596 tourism-reliant jobs from a total of 6,521 local jobs (40%); and
  • As at December 2020, there were 869 people on Job Keeper wage support and 1,536 people on Job Seeker/Newstart compared to 638 in Dec 2019.

Entsch said Far North Queensland, especially Port Douglas and Cairns, were the first regions in the nation to be severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Sadly, we’ll also be among the last to recover. The latest figures reflect this, with 16,617 Cairns workers still on JobKeeper payments.

“Tourism is the number one economic driver for our region. In good years Cairns generated more than $3.5 billion in tourism dollars. Last year that figure was less than $1.5 billion.

“That is a pretty stark figure in anyone’s book,” he said.

Entsch added that serious consideration needs to be given to support packages for those industries that will continue to face challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.


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