Speech-Gold Coast Tourism-House of Representatives
7 Feb | '2020
Angie Bell MP: Bushfires have dominated the headlines throughout summer and continue to be top of mind for all Australians. The widespread global media coverage of the bushfires and misleading maps implying the whole country is, or was, on fire have now created an enormous challenge for our tourism industry, and we have a big job ahead of us to address the safety concerns of international tourists. In my neighbouring western electorate the Gold Coast hinterland is home to the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge, which was unfortunately destroyed. Binna Burra Lodge was an icon of our local tourism industry. The loss of the lodge was a blow to the local industry, but the good news is that it should be up and running by Easter with the assistance of both state and federal disaster recovery funding. It was fantastic to see the Prime Minister visit the Gold Coast hinterland in September to support those who have lost everything in the fires.
Now, in addition, we have seen the coronavirus outbreak. Four people directly from Hubei province remain in isolation at Gold Coast University Hospital. My thoughts are with the Chinese community at this time, as there are very many families whose lives have been adversely affected. We have a thriving Gold Coast community which I of course support. Australia stands ready, and we are leading the world with our precautionary measures, but the health of the Australian public come first. Foreign nationals, excluding permanent residents, who are in mainland China from 1 February will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left, or transited through, mainland China. These are tough but necessary measures our government is taking to keep Australians safe.
Unfortunately, these factors, which are outside of our control, will impact the Gold Coast economy. China is the Gold Coast’s biggest and most valued international tourism market, and we welcome many Chinese foreign students to the Gold Coast. This sector is very important to our local economy. I highlight that, post these measures, we will continue our close relationship with this sector and our relationship with China.
I also want to highlight that, like many other tourism hubs around the country, the Gold Coast is feeling the pinch with regard to a decline in international visitation from key markets such as China, the UK and the US. This is a result of the negative global exposure of the worst bushfire season in Australia’s history and, now, the precautions taken for the coronavirus. We are seeing airline bookings to Australia in the first few weeks of the year down some 30 to 40 per cent. Tourism is a key industry on the Gold Coast; we are the fourth most visited destination in Australia. I urge Australians to continue to go about their domestic business travel and their plans to holiday at home. Early estimates of the immediate economic impact on the Gold Coast of the bushfire season and the coronavirus pandemic have been estimated by Destination Gold Coast to be around $40 million.
Our government has invested an initial $76 million to make sure Australia’s tourism industry can weather the impacts which are being felt not just in the fire affected regions but in key tourist markets, including the Gold Coast. This campaign is all about focusing local, because Australians truly understand what has transpired. Aussies know that the Gold Coast is still open for business. Book now for a fantastic local holiday to our first-class beaches! Shamelessly I stand here and ask Australians to do that. We have a thriving cafe scene and stellar accommodation brands on the coast. The next few months lead into whale-watching season and are a little bit cooler for those enjoyable visits to theme parks. If you’re on the coast, how about you plan a staycation at the beach or head to our hinterland for a long weekend—or head to northern New South Wales, the New South Wales coast or the Adelaide Hills, which also have been devastated by the fires, as we know. You will not only have a fabulous time during your holiday at home but you will help to sustain a business, jobs and livelihoods. I would like to commend CEO Annalise Battista and her Destination Gold Coast team for being on the front foot on the issue, putting forward $2 million to spend on marketing the Gold Coast to the domestic over-50s market—quite a lucrative market. I’ll continue to work closely with tourism stakeholders, my Gold Coast colleagues and Minister Birmingham to ensure we do what we can to assist the Gold Coast through this downturn.