Industry chiefs predict that lifting the limit early on how far Queenslanders can travel will flush tourism towns with cash, and get the sector back on the move after months of COVID-19 lockdown.
With the state’s borders still closed to interstate travellers, Tourism Tropical North chief executive Mark Olsen has welcomed the government’s announcement on Sunday that internal travel is back.
“It’s going to inject an extra $50 million into this economy,” he declared on Monday.
“Our industry is ready to go, we are here, ready to receive the calls.”
Phones have been ringing non-stop over the past 24 hours with hopeful travellers from the southeast corner confirming accommodation and activities, Olsen added.
To them he said: “Jump in the car. We look forward to welcoming you here in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.”
They will face stiff competition from the Gold Coast, where businesses have been hit hard by a border closure that blocks southern neighbours seeking warmth during winter.
However, Destination Gold Coast chair Paul Donovan said he supports the border being reopened only when it’s safe to do so.
He wants to see the popular theme parks back up and running.
“Just up the road we have more than two million people in Brisbane who we know are looking for a break—they’ll be our first target market,” he said.
A marketing campaign that has laid dormant will now get into full swing to coax Queenslanders to tourism pockets across the sunshine state.
“Businesses are grateful that they can open their doors again,” Donovan said.
“Many have already started taking bookings from visitors throughout Queensland who are keen to come and visit the Coast.”
The premier says it is now up business to decide how quickly they’ll take advantage of travel restrictions being lifted.
“There’s so much to explore, I don’t know where to begin,” Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
Qantas says it will be watching bookings on intra-Queensland routes closely, putting on more flights where needed.
It currently operates at least two return flights per week to Queensland’s regional towns and cities.
The enthusiasm from tourism businesses comes as the state celebrates a fourth consecutive day of zero coronavirus cases.
From Monday, Queenslanders can gather in groups of 20 in pubs, gyms and even travel throughout the state, but the borders will remain closed through June.
However, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said travel restrictions regarding remote and vulnerable Indigenous communities remained in place.
By Sonia Kohlbacher