Fury as Tourism Minister holidays while industry suffers
Queensland's newly appointed Tourism Minister has been forced to return from a poorly timed holiday after facing backlash for abandoning the industry in its "hour of need".
The Courier-Mail can reveal Stirling Hinchliffe returned to ministerial duties yesterday after taking leave on Monday - the day Queensland slammed its borders shut to greater Sydney. A spokesman said Mr Hinchliffe returned from leave yesterday and "hosted meetings with tourism industry stakeholders and Queensland Health".
It is understood Mr Hinchliffe was called back by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's office amid fears the new restrictions would cripple the tourism industry.
Tourism stakeholders yesterday slammed the state's new hard borders as a "harmful over-reaction", fearing the massive delays at the border could result in further cancellations.
It comes after experts predicted December border closures would strip $250m from the industry.
Cairns Tourism Industry Association president Kevin Byrne said Mr Hinchliffe's absence was "disrespectful" to the plight of tourism operators.
"And particularly the damage that's been caused by the on-again, off-again border closures," he said.
"For him to go on leave at this crucial time sends a dreadful message to the tourism industry.
"These guys have been (to) hell and back in the past nine months."
State Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said Mr Hinchliffe had abandoned the state's tourism industry in its hour of need.
"It should be all hands on deck … We need every voice joining the chorus asking Queenslanders to fill the interstate vacancies that have emerged this week," he said.
Assistant shadow tourism minister Stephen Bennett slammed Mr Hinchliffe for "pulling up stumps … when his industry is haemorrhaging".
Australian Resident Managers Association CEO Trevor Rawnsley said the government's response to the NSW cluster had reached the point of over-reaction and concrete borders and a 28-day threshold for reopening needed to be reconsidered.
"It's deterring people from travel, even those who have a legitimate right to be in Queensland are motivated not to come because of the long wait times," he said.
"I've had calls … from members who are distraught because of the level of cancellations. It's not just those cancellations now … it's also the lack of confidence."
Mr Rawnsley said if the government kept the border closed for 28 days, it would rob operators of their summer season.
"Queensland is telling tourists from interstate 'Don't come to Queensland' and 'Don't bother booking'," he said.
Accommodation Association of Australia CEO Dean Long said the NSW outbreak highlighted the need for a "a national framework for when they're actually going to open and close the borders" to provide certainty.
The state government on Monday urged Sydneysiders who had planned travel to Queensland to cancel bookings so other visitors could fill their reservations.
Mr Long said Queensland providers had lost 30 per cent of bookings since border closures were announced and "re-bookings" had only filled half that void.
Accommodation Association members had also had a 100 per cent loss of corporate bookings in January and early February.
Mr Long said damage from border closures could be mitigated by freezes on charges - such as payroll taxes and the contentious pedestal tax - which would provide operators up to $60,000 and provide "essential cash flow".
Originally published as Fury as Tourism Minister holidays while industry suffers