Queensland’s tourism and aviation industry to build on State’s strong COVID health response

30 June 2021

BNE Enterprise held its Tourism & Aviation Business Breakfast in late June, with guest speaker Minister for Tourism Industry Development and Innovation and Minister for Sport the Hon. Stirling Hinchliffe updating attendees on the State Government’s response to tackling the many challenges facing Queensland’s tourism and aviation sector as it navigates its way through a global COVID recovery.

The Minister was joined by panellists Alliance Airlines CEO Lee Schofield, Qantas Chief Marketing Officer Jo Boundy and Brisbane Airport Corporation Executive General Manager Aviation Jim Parashos, with the panel discussion facilitated by leading Asian tourism and aviation industry expert TravConsult’s Managing Director Trevor Lee.

Due to border restrictions in effect for large parts of Greater Sydney, Qantas’ Jo Boundy was unable to fly to Queensland for the breakfast, however joined the panel via livestream from Sydney, thanks to the team at Brisbane Airport Conference Centre.

Panellists were united on Australians’ vaccination uptake being a critical element in bringing the country’s tourism and aviation industry back to pre-COVID levels domestically, while keeping a watchful eye on the global recovery process to determine a path forward to opening up the nation’s borders to international travellers.

Minister Hinchliffe said the success to date of Queensland’s economic recovery was as a result of the government’s health response throughout the pandemic.

“Protecting the health of Queenslanders has laid the groundwork for the economy to rebound and make our state an attractive place that Australians want to visit, because they have the confidence in our health management,” Minister Hinchliffe said.

“The best way of protecting our Trans Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand is to maintain strength and consistency in the state government’s health response,” he said.

Although a soft start and a difficult challenge at times with periodic border closures, Queensland’s Good To Go tourism campaign has been a success domestically and will also be encouraging our friends from New Zealand to visit Queensland. Not just visiting friends and family, but a much larger market the likes of which Queensland has never seen.

Alliance Airlines’ Lee Schofield shared the company’s incredible growth experience with guests, highlighting Australians’ rediscovery of regional and outback tourism as a catalyst for the airline’s performance throughout the pandemic.

“Wherever our customers want to go, that’s the joy of charter flights. We’re able to tailor the journey to the travelling group, who aren’t bound by a schedule,” Lee said.

“Where we’ve seen a removal of American and Japanese charters since COVID, we’re seeing this being replaced by domestic travellers with an appetite to see this amazing country we have…. There’s the obvious jewels in the crown such as Uluru and the Barrier Reef, but what we’re trying to do is to encourage tour groups to add on some new destinations.

“We’re working with travel and tourism operators to develop a product with unique itineraries for them to sell to Australians and this is proving to be successful.

“There are some good news stories in the market and I like the fact that Australians can now choose their own adventure with charter flights,” he said.

Qantas’ Jo Boundy said despite the obvious challenges currently facing the aviation industry, the airline was optimistic about Queensland’s tourism sector.

“Qantas is working with tourism bodies on incentives to get people flying to destinations throughout Queensland. We’re opening up new routes and working out ways to extend booking windows to allow for maximum flexibility for holidaymakers,” Jo said.

“We’re saying to Australians, get in early and book. It’s important we continue to stimulate demand and start to build confidence,” she said.

Brisbane Airport Corporation’s Jim Parashos pointed to looming skills and labour shortages as a key issue for the tourism and aviation sector to address in readiness for future international traveller arrivals.

“We’ve got a world-class tourism product on the ground, which needs to be supported with tourism and hospitality experience, which is proving to be a challenge,” Jim said.

“We need to do what we can as an industry, in partnership with the state and federal government, to address labour and skills shortages into the future…. It’s a collective response required by industry.

“Leading into the 2032 Olympics, for the first time in a long time, Brisbane is going to be front and centre on the global stage, and it’s our opportunity to have this City act as the gateway to Australia for many international markets,” he said.