Images of Tropical Cyclone Jasper’s devastating impact on far north Queensland may have driven away tourists during peak season.
But Queensland Premier Steven Miles insists the region is “open for business”, making a $5 million pitch to lure visitors back.
More than $270 million worth of visitor bookings were cancelled in the far north over the usually popular Christmas period after footage of the cyclone’s impact emerged last month.
Some communities are still isolated three weeks after the region was hit by record flooding, with Mr Miles set to assess the recovery effort at Wujal Wujal north of Cairns later on Friday.
But the premier said the time was right for visitors to return to Cairns after unveiling $5 million worth of discounted airfares and accommodation.
Until the end of March, Qantas and Jetstar will offer special airfares to Cairns from $79 from across Australia as part of the state-federal government package.
Discounted accommodation deals will be available in the coming weeks.
Mr Miles said 90 per cent of businesses in the far north were ready to take visitors just weeks after Cyclone Jasper’s well documented devastation.
“We know that a lot of people cancelled their holidays when they saw those pictures but now is the time to re-book,” he said in Cairns on Friday.
One in five jobs are in tourism in the Cairns region.
“This ($5 million package) is the lifeline that the industry needs,” Tourism Tropical North Queensland’s Mark Olsen said.
There are already encouraging signs, with the Reef Magic boat cruise from Cairns almost full with international guests this week.
Lisa and Bob Cressman, from New Jersey, said they had planned their journey across Australia’s Top End four months in advance and did not want to cancel.
“Things have changed along the way on our trip but we just go with the flow … there was a change in one of our flights but that was all,” Mrs Cressman told AAP.
They also want to support people in far north Queensland and help keep the economy going.
Another couple on the Great Barrier Reef cruise, Nicola and Martin Sleet from Essex in the UK, had only seen small disruptions to their plans.
“The only thing it has caused is we were due to go to a crocodile farm and they emailed to say they were closed but other than that, so far so good,” Martin Sleet said.
The couple came to Australia to visit family in Melbourne and had already booked an additional trip to Queensland before arriving.
“We saw some stuff on the news but we decided that unless we heard anything different we would continue,” Mr Sleet said.
After making his tourism pitch in Cairns, Mr Miles will visit Cape Tribulation on Friday including Wujal Wujal with recovery crews finally able to access the flood-hit area.
The clean-up began this week with essential services to be installed ahead of what looms as a major rebuild.
The premier said he had been assured by the federal government that further support would be available, with Australian Defence Force assistance an option.
“They (federal government) will provide what we need, we just need to ask so we need to …see first hand what will be required,” Mr Miles said.
This AAP article was made possible with the support of Tourism and Events Queensland.