Australia on track for tourism bonanza

Tourism in Australia’s state of Queensland is on track to earn a few billion dollars throughout April, a dramatic change of fortune from recent years when the industry languished during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tourism windfall for the “sunshine state” is being at least partially attributed to three consecutive long weekends for Easter, Anzac Day and Labor Day, which will be celebrated in Queensland this coming Monday.

The influx over the Easter break led to the busiest days since the pandemic for Brisbane, Cairns and Gold Coast airports, the gateways to three of the state’s most popular destinations.

Tourism authorities noted the state had 21 percent more visitors than the previous Easter, when states such as New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria were at different stages of their battles against COVID-19.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind confirmed that Easter had been a “game changer” for the sector and had “delivered the turnaround and the mood for tourism operators that we had hoped for.”

“The Anzac weekend and the long weekend ahead of us are giving the industry the boost we need after the struggle we have had over the past two years,” Gschwind said.

Tourism operators recorded strong booking figures over the Anzac break, which coincided with the end of school holidays in the NSW and Victoria.

“Occupancy rates on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns and the Whitsundays held at 83 percent on average through the week with interstate visitors extending Easter breaks into Anzac Day,” Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said on Tuesday, adding the state was likely to earn 2 billion Australian dollars (about 1.43 billion U.S. dollars) for the month.

“We’re encouraging Queenslanders to explore their own backyard this Labor Day long weekend,” Hinchliffe said. “Whether it’s sport, adventure, fishing or film there’s a lot to love, see and do.”

Tourism Whitsundays Chief Executive Rick Hamilton told Xinhua on Wednesday that business remained brisk around the Great Barrier Reef region with accommodation for the upcoming weekend at about 75 percent.

Associate Professor Brent Moyle from Griffith University’s Institute for Tourism said the string of long weekends had “provided a welcome relief” for the tourism sector with people making the most of the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends.

Moyle, however, added a note of caution by saying April’s brisk turnover was a “short-term cash injection” and the tourism economy would require continued intervention by state and federal governments to ensure Queensland remained at the “cutting-edge of tourism experience design and innovation”.

“Keeping our focus on ‘iconic experiences of the future’ will retain the existing markets, while creating demand from emerging international markets enticed by our unique culture and heritage as the tourism sector reopens globally,” he told Xinhua. ■

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