Future Tourism Islands
Future Tourism Islands

Greenies want to keep us off tourist track

ECO-TRAILS in some of Queensland's most renowned national parks could be the answer to fixing north Queensland's tourism slump.

New analysis of overseas tourist numbers and expenditure paints a dire picture for Cairns and the Whitsundays, down by as much as 40 per cent.

But even the multi-day hiking trails - set to rival the Great Walks in Tasmania and New Zealand with cabins and glamping for tourists - have proved controversial, with greenies saying national parks should be left alone.


The Whitsunday Island Trail, Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, and Wangetti Trail between Cairns and Port Douglas are touted as the "new next big thing" for high-yield international visitors.

"Tourists don't want to just look at it,'' Queensland Tourism Industry Council boss Daniel Gschwind said yesterday at the 2019 Global Eco Asia-Pacific Conference in Cairns.

"They want to touch it, feel it, step into it, and stay in the heart of our natural wonders. Queensland has enormous potential, we need new product, but other places have stolen the march on us.''

Backpackers Bryn Reis, 24, from Margaret River in WA, and Esmerelda Yu, 27, from Taiwan, soak up the majestic views from the pools at the top of Zoe Falls on Hinchinbrook Island. Picture: Lachie Millard
Backpackers Bryn Reis, 24, from Margaret River in WA, and Esmerelda Yu, 27, from Taiwan, soak up the majestic views from the pools at the top of Zoe Falls on Hinchinbrook Island. Picture: Lachie Millard

Tourism and Events Queensland chairman Brett Godfrey, a founder of Virgin Australia and owner of Australian Walking Company, last year declared a potential conflict of interest before his luxury trekking company was short-listed for a tender.

"He's been completely transparent,'' Mr Gschwind said.

"Let's use his expertise.''

Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the vision for Queensland to be a global eco-tourism hub was on track. But Opposition tourism spokesman David Crisafulli said analysis of tourism figures compared to the national average over the past three years showed Cairns was down by 22 per cent and the Whitsundays by 40 per cent.

"To say tourism is booming is ash in the mouths of thousands of tourist operators who are on their knees," he said. "They need to … actually do something about eco-tourism, not this paralysis by analysis."

Conservationists and some indigenous traditional owners oppose the privatisation of national parks "because they are primarily to conserve ­biodiversity".



Existing and planned ecotourism and trail experiences the State Government has deemed vital to the future of Queensland tourism


Bundaberg/North Burnett

● Lady Musgrave Experience's new three-level multipurpose pontoon at Lady Musgrave



Sunshine Coast

● Australia Zoo's Camp Crocodile Hunter range of luxury bush camping experiences.


Tropical North Queensland

● Sunlover's new pontoon at Arlington Reef, semi-submersible vessel at Fitzroy Island and Long Island's jetty upgrade

● Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation's tours and accommodation at Talaroo Hot Springs.

● Thorsborne Trail (Hinchinbrook Island, off Cardwell)

● Cobbold Gorge Glass Bridge (Forsayth)

● Wangetti Trail (Palm Cove to Port Douglas)



● Whitsunday Island Trail

● Hook Island Eco-Resort clean-up and reactivation

● Hamilton Island Passage Peak trail upgrade and viewing platforms

● Cruise Whitsundays Reefworld pontoon at Hardy Reef.



● Cape Hillsborough wallaby education and interactive experience


Southern Great Barrier Reef

● Wilson Island reopening (off Gladstone)

● Lady Elliot Island - eco-tents and solar project (off Bundaberg)


Sunshine Coast

● Cooloola Great Walk



● River to Bay's fast tour boats travelling from Brisbane to key Moreton Bay locations.


Gold Coast

● City of Gold Coast's artificial reef and dive attraction.

● Green Mountains campground redevelopment



● 5 Star Eco-Lodges (Longreach)

● Yambangku - Aboriginal Hands Sharing on Country Together Project (Aramac)

● Dinosaur Dreaming Trail (Winton & Barcaldine)