North Queensland, it must be said, is no stranger to cyclones and the havoc they wreak, having been assaulted time and time again, most recently by Yasi and Larry, and many others before.
As difficult as it is to regroup and repair, we know from bitter experience that the communities of this region are resilient and resolute, and will move quickly, yet again, to restore order.
Rapid restoration has always been important after natural disasters, but never as important as now. Tourism will be relied upon more than ever to drive the growth of Queensland, in particular following the end of the resources boom.
There is no doubt that the Queensland and Federal Governments and local administrations did all they could to assist North Queensland to prepare for Debbie, and that they will work just as tirelessly to ‘mop up’ after the storm.
But what is even more important once the Whitsunday region is repaired – as it will be – is the task of reminding travellers of its reputation as a safe and wonderful destination to visit. There is a very real need for Queensland and federal tourism bodies to join the industry in investing quickly and sufficiently to encourage visitors to return when the time is right.
It is also vital to communicate right now to those with existing bookings, or those planning to visit Queensland, that Debbie’s damage is confined to one region, and that the rest of the State remains open for business.
Visitors drive the growth which in turn will power the North Queensland economy, as evidenced today in the release of data from the National Visitor Survey for 2016. Together with the recently-released International Visitor Survey, this research reveals that spending by Australian and international visitors has now exceeded $100 billion in a year – up $5.6 billion over the previous year.
Australians spent $61 billion on tourism at home, while international visitors last year pumped $39.1 billion into our economy – and those numbers are continuing to grow. However, we can’t afford to switch to cruise control now that we’ve reached the magical 100 billion dollar mark.
With international source markets growing, particularly China and greater Asia, we now have much bigger opportunities than ever before, but also much bigger challenges of building our visitor economy in the face of fierce global competition.