Tourism is the key to our future
WITH the Whitsunday Regional Council election approaching, Tourism Whitsundays approached mayoral candidates with a list of questions about our tourism industry in order to help voters make an informed decision.
These are some of their responses:
Q. 1 How do you rate the importance of tourism now and in the future of the Whitsundays' economy?
Mike Brunker, current mayor: It's the life blood of Airlie Beach and the islands that creates a lifestyle for visitors and locals unmatched anywhere in the world, quite simply tourism provides our soul and vibrancy. My hope is that future growth and diversity across the region will also help the tourism industry grow, especially with new opportunities on the horizon in the resource sector.
Our future in tourism relies strongly on being able to attract more flights to the region. We as a council have to work extremely hard to have more people flying into the whole of region focused Proserpine-Whitsunday Coast Airport, so it can be a cheaper holiday right from the outset for the tourist. With a view to supporting the whole region in an equal manner, rather than flying into privately-owned Hamilton Island, getting on a ferry and costing the holidaymaker a fortune.
Tony Maine, mayoral candidate: I am wary of responding to a check list because it assumes the check list covers the issue, strategies or response that I think are necessary to achieve a turn-around. I am not happy with the achievements of tourism over recent years. Some of it can be linked to funding, or objective setting or the available skill set, or the international economic impacts, or the product / service offer, or the nature and effect of brand or simply the priorities the past council has made in relation to tourism in the Whitsundays.
Grigor Taylor, mayoral candidate: Clearly tourism is more than 90% of the Cannonvale-Airlie axis. Obviously then it is of great importance.
I think its importance in the future will continue, however I foresee drive in/drive out miners filling out an increasing part of the area's economy.
Jenny Whitney, current division 3 councillor, mayoral candidate: Tourism is definitely one of the major industries in the region and the lifeblood of Airlie Beach, the islands and surrounding region. As an iconic area, Airlie Beach and the islands need to be recognised for the drawcard that it is and build on its long-term growth potential and the benefits this offers our whole region both economically and socially. It is an aspect of our local economy that should be one given more focus.
Q.2 What do you see as the top five priorities for tourism infrastructure development in the Whitsundays?
Mr Brunker: 1. Finish off the Airlie Main Street that I started. This development goes hand in hand with our new airport, providing the tourist with a new arrival and destination hub.
2. A future phase to the Main Street development is the construction of an entertainment precinct in the heart of Airlie Beach. This will enhance the experience for all visitor markets, while positively affecting our accommodation providers, bars and restaurants, particularly in attracting convention business during the week as these visitors spend proportionality more than the traditional holiday-maker.
3. Increase the car parking opportunities around Airlie Beach and move our Cannonvale Library into the entertainment precinct.
4. Continue with our Airport Master Planning and Commercial Strategic and Operational Plan that are focused on attracting more flights and developing more business on the airport grounds, with funds invested back into strategic opportunities.
5. Develop a service agreement with Tourism Whitsundays for a funding model that would allow more funding to go to our regional tourism organisation.
Mr Maine: See answer to question one.
Mr Taylor: 1. We simply have to solve the problem of the boat ramps and associated facilities including parking.
2. There is a need for more varied entertainment than just nightclubs. An outdoor, open-air concert area could be valuable.
3. Adequate parking for residents and visitors is essential.
4. A low-cost basic but decent area for campervan travellers to stay would be a great step forward.
5. A small picture theatre complex would also be of interest to many visitors who are looking for an alternative to the nightclubs.
Ms Whitney: 1. Redesigning and cementing Airlie Beach as a preferred mainland holiday destination both nationally and internationally.
2. Negotiating more flights in and out of the region with flight times more conducive to both business and tourism.
3. Flood proofing the Bruce Highway and Hamilton Plains.
4. Supporting and encouraging new commercial mainland attractions.
5. Continually upgrading and improving local infrastructure and attractions within the region.
Q.3 Are you supportive of the Airlie Main Street project in it's current form?
Mr Brunker: I certainly am. The key component is that we need to be able to shift the supermarket to get the full benefits for the beautification of Airlie as well as the flood mitigation.
Mr Maine: See answer to question one.
Mr Taylor: I do not pretend to have the knowledge on this subject that a Division One resident may have. However, my many enquiries of locals has painted a picture of poor consultation.
Ms Whitney: I am totally supportive of upgrading Airlie Main Street, the sooner the better. Overall we do not seem to have achieved the "wow" factor, just a new footpath, trees and new road. Airlie needs a definite style and character to compete against other destinations.