Covid nearly killed Far-North Queensland’s $2.5 billion tourist industry. Now, the Queensland Tourism Industry Reference Panel is here to finish it off.
Around half of all jobs in the region have been lost since 2020, especially in the once-bustling Cairns. JobKeeper managed to keep a few of them limping along, but since federal support ended, many more small businesses have closed.
There simply aren’t enough international tourists to make these businesses profitable.
Remote areas that survived off the constant stream of international travellers remain empty. Tour boats sit idle. Cafes and bars have no one to serve. Hotels boast floor after floor of darkened rooms.
Where is everyone?
Australia’s travel rules have kept the gates partially locked while other countries maintain a complicated network of restrictive domestic travel laws – such as vaccine passports – cutting a sizeable chunk out of the tourist market.
Even the tourists that make it onto a plane have a lot less money to throw around at Australian businesses.
Prospective tourists are looking for cheap holiday destinations where they can escape overzealous Big Brother governments. Thanks to Daniel Andrews in Victoria, Australia has a bit of a global PR problem on this front after clips of anti-terror police shooting citizens with rubber bullets went viral.
Naturally, the Sunshine State is desperate to find a way to recover its tourist sector. This would ordinarily come in the form of clever ‘Where the bloody hell are ya?’ ads or paying TikTok influencers to flood Instagram with picture-perfect bodies enjoying Queensland beaches.
Instead, the Queensland Tourism Industry Reference Panel has spent the last few authoritarian years coming up with a much better idea.
Why not tax tourists for going to Queensland’s iconic attractions?
You know, punish them for wanting to see the fast-food tourist ‘must-see’ version of Queensland…
If that doesn’t work, fees are also going to be brought in specifically for virtuous green tourists who have chosen to catch a glimpse of national parks or other natural wonders. Want to snorkel around the reef? There’ll be a tax for that. Skinny dipping in a rainforest pool? Definitely a tax. Hiking in the mountains? You can see where this is going.
Minister for Tourism Stirling Hinchliffe called the idea ‘a bold vision’. Others would call it ‘insanely stupid’.
‘Some of the recommendations are ambitious and will need further consideration and consultation with the tourism industry.’
Certainly, considering the situation for the Queensland industry has become so dire that the government spent last year throwing money at it in the form of grants like the Covid-19 International Tourism Adaptation Grant and the $200 million Building Better Regions project.
Taxing tourists is something the Queensland tourist industry has never been fond of, mainly because it scares people more than the wildlife.
The tax-defenders argue that the proposed tourist money-snatching program is nothing new on a global scale. This is true. Tourist taxes do exist. Usually, these taxes are created to control crowd numbers at catastrophically over-populated attractions – which is the opposite problem facing Queensland.
No one has seen a country tax people to ‘encourage’ crowds (for obvious reasons).
‘While we appreciate that views are polarised as to whether it is an appropriate way to raise funding, everyone we spoke with saw a greater need than ever for increased funding during the Covid recovery period,’ said the panel proposing the tax.
You can’t tax tourists that aren’t there – and that’s exactly what will happen if Queensland pursues this nonsense policy.
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