Shark attacks take $61m bite out of Whitsundays tourism


TOURISM in the Whitsundays has suffered a $61 million hit since several people were attacked by sharks.

New figures reveal the number of international visitors dropped by 20,677 in the year after September 2018.

LNP tourism spokesman David Crisafulli claimed the attacks, which saw one man lose his life in November 2018, played a major role in the drop in visitors and called for immediate action on shark management.

LNP tourism spokesman David Crisafulli.
LNP tourism spokesman David Crisafulli.

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler said while it was disappointing to see an overall decline in international visitation, the region saw strong growth from the North American market which had increased by 6.5 per cent.

"Research shows this market to be a high-end traveller and with the reopening of some of our iconic island resorts and other redevelopments the region has undergone over the past 18 months, it's clear this market has taken notice," she said.

"It's essential to note international destination travel trends, and other geopolitical influences all have a huge impact on international visitation, we don't believe the decline can be aligned with just one factor."

Ms Wheeler said total domestic visitation had increased by 3.5 per cent for the same period.

Three people were attacked by sharks in Cid Harbour in the Whitsundays in 2018, including two incidents in September and one in November.

Mr Crisafulli said sharks weren't the only reason for the decline, and regions needed to have the flexibility to market their points of difference at a grassroots level.

Acting Tourism Minister Grace Grace. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)
Acting Tourism Minister Grace Grace. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

Acting Tourism Minister Grace Grace said the Government was working hard to ensure more tourists were attracted, citing several recent international campaigns.

"Just this week we launched new campaigns in North America and Europe while we market aggressively in China to maximise visitor spend over the Chinese New Year period," she said.

"We also announced a new campaign for the Whitsundays yesterday (Friday).

"The second phase of the Wonders of the Whitsundays initiative kicked off, following the runaway success of phase one last year which drove more than 2000 bookings and generated $3.5 million in sales for local tourism operators.

"Many factors have combined to create some challenging circumstances for these regions."