Fifteen thousand Queenslanders will be able to apply for $200 vouchers to use at tourism attractions in the state’s far north from tomorrow.
It is hoped the scheme will help an industry that’s been struggling through a $2.2 billion COVID-inflicted deficit.
But the deal comes with a catch. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering a holiday up north.
How will the vouchers work?
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Cairns Holiday Dollars program — a joint initiative between the state government and Tourism Tropical North Queensland — in Brisbane on Sunday.
She said Queenslanders would need to register their interest via Queensland.com from tomorrow and the vouchers were only for eligible tourism attractions in Far North Queensland, specifically in Cairns and on the Great Barrier Reef.
“The people in the far north, especially in the tourism industry, are doing it tough,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Some of these schemes have worked well in other states, but we believe that this is absolutely what industry spoke to government about. We have listened and today we are delivering.”
Those who are lucky enough to score one of the 15,000 available vouchers will get a 50 per cent discount on the cost of eligible tourism attractions, up to the value of $200.
So essentially visitors will have to sign up to an experience worth at least $400 to get $200 off the price.
The voucher can only be used once and cannot be split between different experiences.
Who can apply?
Only Queenslanders at this stage.
“We will be looking down the track how we can attract people from other states to also come and support Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
But she said interstate travellers were still being encouraged to visit.
Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe said 2,000 of the 15,000 vouchers would be allocated to residents in Far North Queensland and tourism operators would get the cash from the voucher “as quickly as possible”.
“When they redeem the voucher with the operator, the operator is then able to seek the further redemption of that with an invoice to Tourism and Events Queensland, and that’ll be redeemed,” he said.
Queenslanders will need to enter the draw from March 8 to March 11 and the voucher will have to be used between March 15 and June 25.
Ms Palaszczuk said any unused vouchers or funds would not go to waste.
“My understanding is that then we can look at that period, if they haven’t been used, and perhaps reallocate them,” she said.
Is it enough to entice Queenslanders?
Ms Palaszczuk sought to shut down criticism the vouchers would not be enough to entice people to the region.
“I think it will actually assist people, I absolutely do — people can fly, they can drive, they can catch a train,” she said.
Mr Hinchliffe agreed.
“We’ve seen from other experiences with voucher schemes in other jurisdictions that this has opened up the floodgates of people doing experiences, making choices that they wouldn’t otherwise make,” he said.
“We want to make sure that we use this as a way of opening up people’s minds to a visit to Tropical North Queensland and to open up their wallets further when they arrive so they don’t just fly in, stay at a hotel [and] sit by the pool, but they [instead also] get out and enjoy these experiences.”
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Mark Olsen said at this time of year the region would be welcoming 3,500 international tourists a day.
“The Cairns Holiday Dollars is the injection that the industry needs,” Mr Olsen said.
“The industry has been cut by more than half.
“For a destination that used to turn over $3.5 billion of tourism expenditure, supporting one in five jobs, we’ve lost more than $2.2 billion of expenditure.
“It’s a really good kickstart for a really important time.
“In the domestic market, April to June is the quietest time, it’s when our international market booms, so the industry needs a lift right now.”
Bad Fishy, a marine tourism business that operates a jet boating experience and boat hire in Cairns, said it struggled to stay afloat during the height of the pandemic.
Manager Nikki Giumelli said it had been “a very interesting past 12 months”.
“A bit of a rollercoaster really, we’ve had periods of complete closure, periods with very limited business, a few good weeks over Christmas and a very challenging February,” Ms Giumelli said.
“I think it helps — it’s definitely very welcome from our perspective. I think it motivates business and it gives back to Queenslanders as well.
“It can give [tourists] the incentive to do more when they’re in the region, certainly to try something different or to make an investment in a business or activity that they otherwise may not have done.
“I think there’s still a lot of anxiety in the industry about how this maps out over time.
“All these kind of initiatives are really positive, but there is still overall concern that we don’t know what it’s going to look like in three or six months, and the return of international travel still has a big question mark.”
What about other parts of Queensland?
Ms Palaszczuk said Far North Queensland was the area hardest hit by the COVID-19 restrictions and it needed the tourism injection the most, but her government would look at other destinations “down the track”.
“At the moment, the Cairns operators are really feeling the brunt of this, in terms of the number of international tourists [they’ve lost],” she said.