New $1m cash splash to pay visitors to see the Reef
The State government will shell out $1 million for Queensland schoolkids to go on class excursions to the Great Barrier Reef in the latest push to spark the ailing tourism industry.
Just days after announcing a promotion entitling travellers to $200 vouchers to tour Cairns and the tropical north, the State government will today unveil a program to encourage more Queensland kids to visit the reef on school excursions.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said a trip to the reef should be at the top of every Queensland school kid's excursion wish list.
"Who would want to go to Canberra when you can visit the Great Barrier Reef?" she said.
A push to promote tourism on the reef with $200 travel vouchers yesterday went ballistic with almost 50,000 applications online, at one point overwhelming the website.
The double dose reef blitz comes as new research reveals just how badly Queensland's tourism regions have been left reeling from the year-long coronavirus pandemic.
Data from the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) show huge swathes of Queensland suffered decreases in visitor numbers of more than 40 per cent last year, including some of our most heavily-frequented tourist destinations.
Ms Palaszczuk said the State government was doing its best to help an industry in need, with a subsidy of up to $150 per student now on the table for school excursions to the reef.
"Cairns tourism operators have done it tough over the last 12 months (and) this initiative will support local jobs and pump cash back into local businesses," she said.
"The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the world and it's right in our backyard.
"I want as many Queensland students as possible to experience its beauty and understand its importance."
Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Great Barrier Reef Education Experience Program would assist accommodation and reef tour businesses.
"It helps the tourism industry and primary and secondary students to get out into the field for school curriculum activities including reef biodiversity and science," he said.
"We know FNQ tourism operators have been doing it tough with the COVID pandemic and that's why Cairns will be the focus of the reef education program.
Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators CEO Gareth Phillips welcomed the announcement.
"The Great Barrier Reef Marine Tourism Industry has been delivering educational experiences for many years and this subsidy will help schools to get access to these education programs," he said.
"This will provide pupils with a greater understanding of the complexities of the Great Barrier Reef and inspire them further."
The program will come into effect from term three this year, with every Queensland school eligible to apply.
It comes as almost 50,000 would-be travellers applied for a chance to win $200 travel vouchers to tour Cairns and the reef.
In the first five hours of the promotion, 43,000 people registered - at one point at the rate of 300 people every minute.
The promotional push is welcome for an industry still reeling from the loss of international visitors and the battered confidence of interstate travellers.
New figures from the TTF show more than a third of statistical areas in the country recorded visitor declines of more than 40 per cent in the year to September 2020.
In Queensland, some suburbs reported minimal change in visitor numbers, but those were typically suburbs well away from traditional tourist hot spots which don't attract many travellers in any case.
Originally published as New $1m cash splash to pay visitors to see the Reef