Many unanswered questions and confusion for business


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Tara Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree, says the vaccine mandate is causing a lot of confusion for business. Image: supplied
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Covid-19 will not bypass the Douglas Shire and residents need to accept this, but be reminded that
vaccinations are the best way to protect residents, visitors and businesses.

But like most shires in Far North Queensland, the State Government’s vaccine mandate has created confusion for businesses trying to understand their rights and obligations to guests and staff.

This is the view of Tara Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree, the shire’s tourism body.

“The vaccine mandate is causing a lot of confusion for businesses who are trying to understand their rights and obligations to guests and staff.

“It’s unclear at present, so TPDD is working with Douglas Shire Council and the Douglas Chamber to pull together the vast array of questions and find the answers to help businesses plan ahead.

“COVID-19 will come to Douglas once borders open and we want to see our community and visitor economy protected, the best way to do this is through high vaccine rates,” said Bennett.

According to the Queensland Government website, restrictions for entry to Queensland are set to ease on December 17, 2021.

“This is when we expect at least 80 per cent of Queenslanders, 16 years and older, to be double vaccinated against COVID-19. Restrictions may ease if Queensland is 80 per cent double vaccinated before this date.

“Some businesses must restrict entry to unvaccinated people from this date. This also includes your employees if they are not fully vaccinated.”

Confusion, meanwhile, has set in for the Central Queensland business community over incoming COVID restrictions at venues.

As the sunshine state approaches the 80 per cent double dose mark, unvaccinated people will be locked out of hotels, cafes and bars, according to a Hit Network report.

Local council representatives say Premier Palaszczuk needs to reconsider plans and limits.

Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll says many believe the State Government's new restrictions are somewhat blurred.

"Questions are being raised like for example; an accommodation facility might have a restaurant on-site.

"Yet the accommodation portion of that building as we know is exempt from mandatory vaccinations, yet the restaurant is not, all of those people are coming to the same reception,” said Ms Carroll.

A local council is pleading with the State Government to reconsider planned Covid restrictions, with fears local businesses will be forced to close and hinder the overall economic recovery.

Livingstone Council's Mayor Andy Ireland said messaging was coming from the community for new restrictions to be addressed.

Meanwhile, Bennett said this year has been much tougher on the tourism sector than 2020 with the absence of Job Keeper and the false hope of high bookings for much of the year dashed by key markets locked out since July.

“It's testament to the resilience of the local industry to see the majority of businesses remaining open, looking ahead to a more positive future.”

In viewing the current state of play in the tourism industry – which makes up 85 per cent of the shire’s economy – Ms Bennett said while current visitation will remain flat hovering between 25-30 per cent until mid-December, the current forward bookings will see this grow to 66 per cent by Christmas Eve peaking at 82 per cent by New Year’s Eve. By January 11 the occupancy will drop to 50 per cent. 

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