Far Northern tourism operators bounce back 'bigger and better' after cyclone Yasi
TOURISM operators have used cyclone Yasi as a chance to bounce back by improving their businesses and attracting visitors in greater
Tourists are flocking back to Queensland, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics results, which shows the state has seen an increased occupancy rate and average length of stay, despite last summer’s natural
In the Far North, the centres worst hit by the category 5 cyclone have reported bumper visitor numbers with many accommodation houses booked solid over Christmas and New Year.
And Mantra, the biggest operator of hotels in Queensland, is hedging its bets that there is more to come, after seeing increases in occupancy rates, prices and overseas visitors.
In the past year, the hotel chain’s occupancy rates have risen – up 10 per cent in North Queensland, 8 per cent on the Sunshine Coast and 4 per cent on the Gold Coast.
Tourism Minister Jan Jarratt yesterday paid tribute to the state’s tourism operators for their determination and said the marketing efforts of Tourism Queensland also had to be recognised when discussing the statistics.
She said the $12 million Nothing Beats Queensland campaign was a particular success.
"Released immediately after the summer’s disasters, the campaign countered the disaster images and showed the world we were open for business," she said.
While the statistics point to a positive future, Ms Jarratt said there was still a lot of work to be done and announced extra funding that would see the Far North’s tourism recovery officer kept on until Easter.
Mission Beach-based Richard Blanchette has been working with operators as they rebuild after Yasi, identifying issues and helping businesses bounce back.
His role was due to finish in December.
There were still many issues that need to be resolved, including the reopening of island camping grounds, he said.
And said some people have not yet managed to get all the help available to them.
"It is still a mixed bag out there," he said.
"Overall, of course, things are much better than the day after the cyclone and these days tourists are more likely to come to Mission Beach and say: ‘Wow, were you hit by a cyclone?’
"They just see the beauty and how things look now.
"I think that is the key as we head into the one year Yasi anniversary.
"We need to acknowledge just how far we have come and what we have achieved instead of solely focusing on what there is left to do."
Mr Blanchette said Yasi had made people stronger, with many using the experience of the cyclone to "adapt and expand".
"Many people have or will come out of this bigger and better," he said.
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Bounce back: Tourism industry recovery officer Richard Blanchette will stay on in his role until Easter. He says many people have come out of the devastation of Yasi bigger and better. Picture: MIKE WATT