Queensland Christmas Vacation Tour Operators Desperate To Reopen Borders

After calling the waters of the Great Barrier Reef In his 33-year office, tour boat operator Perry Jones has struggled to keep his family business afloat.
The owner and operator of the Cairns based business tourism Cairns Premier Reef and Island Tours said the uncertainty over the condition border restrictions paralyzes his business and weighs on his family.

It’s a trend spilling over into the tourism industry across Australia, with strict closings and a shortage of domestic and international travelers forcing many small businesses to close.

Perry Jones, left, has run his maritime travel business for decades. (Provided)

“It’s just heartbreaking,” Mr. Jones said.

“I find it very, very hard. If I didn’t have such a beautiful son and such a beautiful wife, I would have a hard time continuing. That’s how bad it is right now.”

Mr Jones said out of a workforce of 34 people before the pandemic, he was forced to cut to seven tour operators and was recording losses of around $ 10,500 per week due to the limited number of his boats.

Since the start of the pandemic, Mr. Jones has been forced to borrow $ 750,000 to run the business. It operates at 5% of its pre-pandemic income.

Snorkeling at Upolo Cay, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef
Demand for tours around the Great Barrier Reef has dropped. (Provided)

“I’m lucky if I’m going to be working two or three days a week right now,” he said.

“I could have closed my two boats and it would have been cheaper to do so. It costs me money to stay open but after 25 years in business I have to keep my name there.

“I’m doing it for my family and for my team to continue. I lost a lot of my team this year because I couldn’t afford to keep them after JobKeeper ended.”

He said state borders that remained closed over Christmas could be the fatal blow to the local tourism industry, with many business owners frustrated by the state’s lack of communication and support.

“The goal is to open these borders by Christmas. But you have to give people assurance that they will not be locked,” Mr Jones said.

“The hardest part is that no one is talking to us, no one is telling us what’s going to happen with this border.”

A “disaster to come”

Michael Trout is a tourism operator in North Queensland whose company has been the victim of the pandemic.

After 31 years in the business, he made the difficult decision to shut down his riding and quad touring business last month.

“We were losing $ 15,000 a month and you can only do that for a while before you have to make that decision,” Mr. Trout said.

A horseback riding tour of North Queensland
Michael Trout’s business closed after 31 years. (Provided)

“We got to the point where, with no roadmap to open the border and no desire to help these small businesses, we thought we were whipping a dead horse.

“It was incredibly sad, I had to sell my horses, many of which I bred, and make sure they go to good homes.”

Cairns Tourism Industry Association President Kevin Byrne said the shutdown of iconic tourism businesses, from tour operators to hotels and hospitality venues, has become a common occurrence.

“The industry here is really on its knees,” Mr. Byrne said.

“There are a lot of people going bankrupt every week so it’s a pretty depressing situation here. We need the Queensland government to change course.

“The policy of the state government has been virus removal, not virus removal, and frankly, the industry here lacks confidence and exists on a day-to-day basis.”

He criticized the Palaszczuk government for its strict foreclosure approach and said access to the New South Wales and Victorian-era tourist market was crucial to the industry’s survival.

A horseback riding tour of North Queensland
In addition to shutting down his business, Mr. Trout was also forced to sell his horses. (Provided)

According to Byrne, state incentives such as the Holiday Dollars initiative, which encourages Queenslanders to vacation at home, and the Work in Paradise program, which provides a cash incentive to work in the hotel sector in the tropics, have fallen flat.

“We have a country called Australia and we have seven different charlatans with their own people as hostages,” Byrne said.

“It’s just shameful. It’s already a mess and it’s a disaster that awaits if Queensland doesn’t join the rest of Australia in opening up its economy.”

Not all bad news for the economy

While the economy of North Queensland is heavily dependent on tourism, economist Saul Eslake said the delay in the tourism industry has not had a dramatic impact on Australia’s economy at large.

According to Mr. Eslake, from early 2019 to March 2020, foreign visitors spent $ 66 billion on tourism-related services in Australia, but that figure dropped to just $ 30.5 billion from March 2020 to the end of the year. ‘year.

Despite this slowdown, the Australian economy has remained stable.

Snorkeling at Upolo Cay, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef
There is simply not the same volume of tourists on the Great Barrier Reef as before the pandemic. (Provided)

“Enough foreigners, whether tourists, students or backpackers, have remained in the country that they are still spending between $ 2 billion and $ 2.5 billion a month here,” Eslake said.

He suggested that closing the borders to international travelers has had a surprising economic benefit, the $ 55 billion Australians would normally spend overseas instead of going to the local retail sector and domestic travel.

“This is a perverse result because everyone thinks they know that stopping foreign tourists and people coming here has imposed a significant economic loss – which it has been spending by foreigners.

“I would say people spend more at home and Australians spend more time on vacation at home.”

However, that is little consolation for Mr Jones, who fears his business will not survive if borders remain closed.

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“What is really killing us is that we were Australia and now we are states,” he said.

“If they’re not going to open by Christmas, they need to let us know and get us out of this stalemate.”

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