Tourism leaders voice concern about Queensland’s new quarantine facility plan
Queensland may as well kiss international tourism goodbye if arriving passengers are made to quarantine at a new purpose-built facility at Toowoomba, industry leaders have warned.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday the new 1000-bed quarantine site would be fully operational by March, well after the country reaches its 80 per cent vaccination targets and restrictions are eased or lifted.
She said vaccines and hotel quarantine were the best weapons against the Delta variant of Covid-19 and even though you are vaccinated, you could still “transmit” the virus.
When asked why fully vaccinated international travellers would need to quarantine, she replied, “ … hopefully, over months and years we might get to a better position on the international evidence, but at the moment the 14 days will stay”.
Flight Centre boss Graham Turner was left wondering what Queensland tourism would look like if international arrivals had to be bussed or flown to Toowoomba for a two-week stint in quarantine.
He said Qantas had already announced it was looking to resume international flights from December if quarantine rules were relaxed and this was likely to go against the convention of the rest of the country.
“I am concerned; it must be being built for a future pandemic or a new variant, I presume,” Mr Turner said.
“If that is the Queensland rule, Queensland won’t get any tourists and the other states will get them because no doubt they will be open in the next few months.
“If it was built for this pandemic, it is going to kill tourism permanently for Queensland and possibly interstate tourism as well.”
The facility would provide 500 beds by the end of the year with all cabins built by the end of March.
It would complement the Commonwealth’s facility at Pinkenba, adjacent to Brisbane International Airport.
Ms Palaszczuk, who first proposed the Toowoomba facility in January but wanted federal government financial backing, said regional quarantine facilities were a “no-brainer”.
“Our hotels were not built to be the last line of defence for a global pandemic,” she said.
“We are going to be dealing with Delta for some time. And if we want to open up Australia, regional quarantine facilities are the second part of the answer. The first part is vaccine.”
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind wanted a vaccinated tourism travel pass for passengers from countries where vaccination rates were high, to avoid any quarantine.
He said the facility would serve unvaccinated arrivals, but placing vaccinated passengers in a two-week holding pattern would cruel tourism in Queensland.
“Yes to the facility, but there needs to be a vaccinated travel pass as soon possible,” Mr Gschwind said.
“I’d like to think vaccinated people would be allowed to come in and not quarantine anywhere.
“This facility, as far as I can see, is a tool to manage arrivals from countries where vaccination rates are low or unvaccinated, but I’d like to see more clarification.”
Qantas boss Alan Joyce said earlier on Thursday that international travel would potentially reopen from December but any 14-day quarantine requirement would be detrimental to overseas flights resuming.
“One of the biggest unknowns in all of this is the quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers entering Australia and there are a number of trials that are starting around the country,” he said.
“If it is still 14 days in hotel, demand levels will be very low and this schedule won’t be feasible.
“A shorter period with additional testing and the option to isolate at home will see a lot more people travel and gives us confidence that this level of operation could work.”
Originally published as Tourism leaders voice concern about Queensland’s new quarantine facility plan
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails