Tourism industry faces job cuts in$1.7b coronavirus hit
QUEENSLAND businesses are facing a potential loss of up to $1.7 billion as employers work under extreme stress and staff are likely to be cut due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
It comes as the nation's top medico would not rule out extending the two-week travel ban for China if the deadly outbreak cannot be contained.
The disease has already killed 362 people, though only one person outside mainland China, while almost 18,000 people have been infected.
The state is currently battling through a $100m loss to the economy as a result of a reduction in Chinese tourists, with the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) unsure when the situation will end.
"We cannot know how long this situation may continue," QTIC chief executive Daniel Gschwind said.
"Some estimates suggest that if the crisis cannot be resolved for the next three months, tourism revenue for Queensland could be reduced by up to $1.7 billion.
"A reduction of staff shifts and hours is already playing out and staff losses are likely to occur.
"The economic impact is not just daunting numbers - behind the millions and billions to the economy there are thousands of businesses operators who are under extreme stress, as are thousands of staff across the state."
Mr Gschwind said the coronavirus could not have "emerged at a worse time" and the most important message is that tourism businesses are "just the front line".
"There are countless supply industries that benefit from the tourism dollar circulating through local communities - produce suppliers, transport providers and most importantly the wages of tourism staff," he said.
"If you live in Queensland you are connected to the tourism industry, a sector that employs nearly ten per cent of the workforce.
"We will also seek urgent measure from federal and state governments to support business viability at this difficult time.
"We need all the help we can get to help business to work through this challenge to be in a strong position to support a recovery when it comes."
Latest figures show Cairns alone has taken a $10 million dollar hit after 25,000 direct cancellations because of the coronavirus.
It comes as tourism heavyweights such as casinos and zoos fear future visitation may be impacted.
"We've not been overly affected as yet, but with the recent changes in travel bans, we do have some concern that future visitation may be impacted," Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary spokeswoman Amy Swinn said.
"Australian tourism has certainly taken a knock over the last few months, but I am sure we'll get back on our feet in no time with the support of our domestic travellers.
"We're still open for business, with no changes to our operation or the experiences we have on offer so come and visit."
The Federal Government implemented the two-week travel ban for any non-Australian entering the country from China on the weekend, while any Australians who return must self-isolate for 14 days.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy would not rule out extending the ban.
"It all depends on how well the Chinese Government can control the outbreak in Hubei and the rest of China," he said.
"The Chinese authorities have started to reduce travel from China and if the outbreak spreads further in other provinces, they are likely to restrict anyway so the travel ban perhaps is less important."
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the Government was following expert advice, but the travel ban was not likely to be reviewed before the initial 14-day period.
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Staff at The Treasury Casino were yesterday seen at baccarat and blackjack tables wearing masks as precautionary measures against the coronavirus.
"While use of face masks for team members in their everyday activities are not required under official guidelines, we are providing them on request if it makes them feel more comfortable," a The Star spokesman said.
"It is too early to predict any potential impacts - we continue to monitor the situation.
"Chinese tourism is important to the tourism industry generally however, we do welcome significant numbers of tourists from other countries as well."