Frustration at ‘one size fits all’ virus recovery plan

FITZROY Island management is navigating uncharted waters and grappling with a lack of clarity surrounding a post-COVID-19 reopening of the resort in what the chief executive described as a "one size fits all" recovery plan.

Parts of the popular island resort, located about 25km east of Cairns, reopened to day trippers travelling in their own boats when an easing of restrictions allowed gatherings of 10 people or fewer at the weekend.

But bad boating weather has meant trade has been slow.

A resumption of commercial ferry services cannot get under way until Stage 2 of the government's recovery road map, on June 12.

The Cairns tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Fitzroy Island CEO Glen Macdonald says it is not viable to open the resort or the island to day trips until government restrictions are lifted to 100 customers or more. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
The Cairns tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Fitzroy Island CEO Glen Macdonald says it is not viable to open the resort or the island to day trips until government restrictions are lifted to 100 customers or more. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Resort executive officer Glen Macdonald said from June 12, tourism and accommodation business was permitted to trade, but conjecture surrounding day use of the island's facilities was causing a degree of uncertainty.

"But we still need to finalise the day trip aspect because they still need to (consider) social distancing through vessel transfer," he said. "We want to have normality of operations and have a team ready to go, but the critical aspect is understanding the viability of operations ... under these restrictions and restraints.

 

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"And there is a huge amount of conjecture on how you read some of these constraints. The biggest problem I have discovered is everything they have tried to apply has been treated on a one-size-fits-all basis and it doesn't fit all markets or business models."

With revenue drying up almost overnight when the COVID-19 crisis hit, the island was forced to apply to the bank to defer business loan repayments and merchant fees.

Fitzroy Island, in the north east of Queensland, Australia. Picture: istock
Fitzroy Island, in the north east of Queensland, Australia. Picture: istock

"It's just support we need. The issue with this process is you just don't have an understanding of where the end is," Mr Macdonald said.

"And we still have operational outlays (such as) insurance, wages and operational costs."

Mr Macdonald expected most ferry operators servicing the island would not resume services until Stage 3 of the COVID-19 recovery plan on July 10.

The island would have to rely on local visitors within a 150km distance until June 12 and a 250km distance until July 10.

"Fitzroy Island is synonymous with the local community and we look forward to the continued support of locals so we can get back online," Mr Macdonald said.

"Our target market will initially be locals and regional business."

He said the resort would reopen for overnight stays on June 12 if commercial vessel operations resumed.


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