North Queensland Losing $7 Million Each Day Due to Border Closure

A domestic-led recovery is possible for the tourism industry if state borders reopen

North Queensland Losing $7 Million Each Day Due to Border Closure
Queensland’s Wet Tropics Skyrail is one way to see wilderness areas but at a cost to wilderness quality. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

Australia's domestic tourism industry is suffering unnecessarily due to blanket state border closures, with North Queensland currently losing $7 million per day from domestic travellers.

Queensland's border is closed during Tropical North Queensland's peak season. As a result, the region is facing significant job losses of around 11,700 in 2020, with an estimated 7,500 jobs currently being supported only by JobKeeper.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen told The Epoch Times via a spokesperson that the region was experiencing a continued lull in bookings and arrivals.

"August visitor numbers are less than 30 percent of pre-COVID levels across all sectors with the marine operators running at around 10 percent of pre-COVID levels, accommodation and hire car at 30 percent, the airport running at 29 percent of pre-COVID levels and bus touring at 5 percent of pre-COVID levels," he said.

"The region is estimated to be losing $7 million a day in what is our peak season for domestic travellers," Olsen said. "Beyond the September school holidays, forward bookings are below 10 percent of pre-COVID levels."

Prior to social distancing and border controls, Australians spent $107 billion on day trips and domestic overnight trips around the country.

According to Tourism Research Australia (TRA), in 2019, Australians aged 15 and older took 11 day-trips on average and 20 days of domestic overnight trips on average (pdf).
"In 2018–19 there were 666,000 people directly employed in tourism in Australia, with another 370,000 working to provide goods and services to the industry," reported TRA.

Across the board, Australia has shed seven percent of jobs since the start of the pandemic.

That said, TRA thinks there is potential for a domestic-led recovery for the tourism industry.

"This would involve a gradual resumption of domestic travel once interstate borders fully reopen and restrictions on gatherings are lifted," its report stated.

To that end, federal politicians are pushing state and territory leaders to adopt a new proportionate system that they say would help get people travelling across the country again in a COVID-safe way.

"There's lots of tourism businesses I'm still hearing from who are really bleeding, suffering, struggling to be viable," Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham told ABC Radio Perth on Sept. 3.

He also noted that internal state border restrictions have been in place longer than is necessary or justifiable for health reasons.

The federal minister wants people who live in areas that haven't seen a COVID-19 case for a designated period of time—which as of yet is to be determined—to have the freedom to travel interstate to places that have done well in suppressing COVID-19, such as Queensland, Tasmania, and the ACT.

The issue of state border closures is expected to be discussed at the national cabinet meeting by the prime minister with the state and territory leaders on Friday.