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Tourism blueprint revealed: Queensland must be ‘more appealing, more dynamic'

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Experts brought in by the Palaszczuk government say the future might include Spanish-style beaches, hotels in National Parks and giving tourists a reason to stay up late.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did the rounds of morning TV today to spruik a $7.5 million incentives program to recruit Australians to work in tourism. With a shortage of backpackers and visa-holders, the government will offer a $1500 incentive and free travel to lure more workers to the Sunshine State.

Asked in Cairns if $1500 was enough, Palaszczuk said “it’s better than nothing” and encouraged people to apply before the money runs out.

But a discussion paper prepared by the government’s Tourism Industry Reference Panel suggests the industry has deeper problems, some of which were exacerbated by the travel restrictions of the pandemic. It may also cost millions of dollars more to address.

According to the panel, the shine first came off Queensland tourism at the start of the century, and the ensuing competition for Chinese travel dollars exposed issues at home.

“Going forward, we will need to transform our industry to become more appealing, more dynamic and more resilient,” the panel argues.

“Around the world, destinations are also taking the opportunity to re-set their approach to tourism. The future is likely to be very competitive. Industry and government must work together to design the future we want.”

Now, according to the panel, tourists expect technology to be used to facilitate their journeys and experiences, and are looking for safe options as COVID-19 continues to ravage other parts of the world.

But, at the same time, travel restrictions have led to people holding off bookings, staying closer to home, and making last-minute reservations directly with providers to be sure their plans can go ahead.

“The fear of being ‘stuck’ as travel restrictions change suddenly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred strong demand for last-minute bookings,” the panel says.

“(Tourism and Events Queensland) has reported booking lead times have shortened during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a preference for visitors to book directly with providers.

As borders and airline routes reopen, the panel wants Queensland to build on its tourism offering, with new projects and a livelier atmosphere to attract people from interstate and around the world.

It points to other states integrating tourism activity and accommodation into National Parks “with great success,” calls for broader indigenous cultural experiences, and suggests other natural drawcards are under-utilised.

“Queensland simply has the best beaches in the world – hands down,” the panel argues.

“But in destinations like Santorini in Greece, Cala Jondal in Ibiza and Positano in Italy, the beach is a hive of activity, a mecca for entertainment and hospitality experiences that build on the beach experience. What is the Queensland beach experience we want to be known for in the future?”

The panel also wants to “rebuild” the events calendar and give tourists a reason to hang around.

“Queensland’s sub-tropical city centres have a unique identity and flavour,” the panel states.

“The great outdoors, our fresh produce, coffee and booming craft brewing industry provide clear motivations to explore our urban villages, staying later and longer.”

The panel is chaired by aviation leader Liz Savage and includes former Tourism Australia CEO Andrew McEvoy and Tourism and Events Queensland Chair Brett Godfrey. When their roles were announced in March, Palaszczuk said the government had called on “some of the best in the business to deliver a blueprint for the recovery of this sector in Queensland”.

The discussion paper is open for public feedback until the end of June.

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