Deb Frecklington, who led the Liberal National Party (LNP) to a poor result in last weekend’s Queensland state election, warned during the campaign that the tourism industry would be hit hard by strict border restrictions introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-191. Tourism Tropical North Queensland’s chief executive officer, Mark Olsen, said the industry generated a record $3.5bn in the 12 months before the Covid-19 lockdown in Australia, but “with the border closures our industry has been losing $6m a day”. This time of year, tourism operators would normally expect to see an increase in international travellers avoiding the boreal winter, with up to 55,000 visitors a day. If international travellers are still locked out of Australia next year, as seems likely, then it is also likely that many operators will go under, especially as the federal government’s JobKeeper is due to be rolled back by March 20212.
Given that the Spanish Flu pandemic lasted almost three years, it seems this Covid-19 pandemic still has a way to go. We are only a year into it and many countries are experiencing a second or third wave much worse that the first, with their daily record of new cases still climbing; currently globally over 500,000 per day, while deaths are near 75,000 a day3. Given this, it seems unlikely that anything, especially air travel, will return to normal before 20234. While that probably seems like an eternity for some tourism operators, the pain can be to some extent lessened by more federal government assistance.
Much of the tourism in Tropical North Queensland is dependent on the Great Barrier Reef, and it is damage to this caused by global warming which is now beyond the capability of any government to remedy; it appears doomed. It has lost 50% of its corals since 1995, and mass bleaching events are becoming almost a regular occurrence5. The irony here is that while the federal government is helping tourism operators hit by Covid-9 lockdowns with temporary programs like JobKeeper, it is the federal governments emissions policies, or lack of them, which is adding to global warming, and this has doomed the reef, permanently.