The Sunshine Coast Business Council (SCBC) is calling on the Queensland Government to revoke vaccine mandates when it comes to several key tourism drivers in the region, including agriculture shows and open-air attractions.
SCBC Chair Sandy Zubrinich said the time had come to level the playing field for these events and tourism operators, who have been some of the hardest hit businesses by the pandemic.
“Enough is enough. Tourism in our region — like many others across Queensland — has suffered terribly over the past two years and at a time when local operators should be excited about the upcoming school holidays, many are still left questioning whether it’s even worth opening their doors given the ongoing restrictions,” Ms Zubrinich said.
“We also have our agriculture show holidays coming up, but the fate of these community shows going ahead is still riding on whether health officials will drop the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which does not apply to many other users of showgrounds.”
Ms Zubrinich questioned whether these protocols are still valid with the state’s vaccine rate now at more than 90 per cent, and at a time when regional economies are desperately trying to recover.
“We’re calling on Mayors and local members across Queensland to work together to advocate at a state level for the community shows and key tourism attractions that are still caught up in the red tape of paying additional staff to check vaccination status and turning people away who do not comply,” she said.
“We remain supportive of following the State COVID-19 health advice however there needs to be consistency in how this advice is applied as circumstances change. On the one hand we have thousands of people going through indoor shopping centres every weekend and outdoor markets where no mandates are in place, while these largely outdoor community events and struggling tourism operators continue to feel the impact.”
The Sunshine Coast Agricultural Show is one of the biggest annual events on the Sunshine Coast and under the current health mandates, the Show will not only have to turn away unvaccinated patrons but also require extra security at a cost of $50,000, which Queensland Ag Shows General Manager Trevor Beckingham said they can simply not afford.
“If circumstances regarding the vaccine mandate for shows remains in place, we would be forced to postpone or cancel,” Mr Beckingham said.
“That’s more than $3 million in economic value that is brought to the local community that would be lost.
“Smaller impacts would be felt directly by the local stall holders, local suppliers and businesses as well as the Showman’s Guild.”
Current regulations allow many sporting events, markets and exercise groups to operate on showground properties without proof of vaccination.
“It’s double standards and we are the only state or territory that’s being dealt with in this way,” Mr Beckingham said.
“It’s devastating to say the least, we operated 116 of our 129 shows across Queensland last year, under COVID-safe plans, and not a single case of COVID-19 can be traced back to a show.”
The Gympie Show has just been postponed and now the Sunshine Coast Agriculture Show is considering its position said former Sunshine Coast Councillor, and life member of the Sunshine Coast Ag Show Jenny McKay.
“The annual agricultural shows are just so important to regional communities, and we are calling for any help to have the health mandate changed to allow our shows to proceed without turning some people away and without forcing huge security costs burdens on these events,” Ms McKay said.
Local tourism operators also continue to experience the financial impact of current health mandates, with attractions like the Ginger Factory forced to impose full vaccination for entry, despite predominately being an open-air experience.
“As a result, reduced visitor numbers and increased operating costs, coupled with the loss of long-term staff have had both a significant financial and social impact on our business, staff and visitor experience, and continues to do so,” Ginger Factory CEO Andrew Bond said.
“With the up-coming school holidays we have made several representations to Government and key stakeholders to have the requirement lifted.
“The Ginger Factory is a safe, family friendly venue and we look forward to welcoming everyone, but we need support and the vaccine mandate lifted.”
Aussie World General Manager Jenny Howell echoes Mr Bond’s sentiments and said they too are desperate for the vaccine mandate to be lifted.
“These regulations are now significantly impacting customer confidence and as a result staff are losing a lot of working hours, it’s just not sustainable,” Ms Howell said.
The Sunshine Coast Business Council said despite state borders having been opened in time for the festive season, December and January, usually one of the busiest times for tourism, was unusually slow for many in the tourism industry, flowing on to other businesses and staff who lost working hours and wages.
“We need to get rid of as many road blocks as possible to attract tourism, in all its forms, and new markets to the Coast,” Ms Zubrinich said.
“Events such as regional shows and tourist attractions that bring intrastate visitation are all critical to business sustainability and the health of our local economy as well as bringing pleasure to our communities.
“These are tough economic times and we call on the State Government to be consistent in how it applies its COVID protocols to both enable our annual community shows to go ahead, and to allow tourism operators to make the most of the upcoming school holidays and beyond.”
About Sunshine Coast Business Council:
The Sunshine Coast Business Council is the leading regional business advocacy group on the Sunshine Coast. It represents approximately 4,000 businesses through its membership, which includes key national and regional industry groups and their members as well as national and regional businesses.
For more information on the Sunshine Coast Business Council and membership enquiries, visit www.scbusinesscouncil.com.au.
Natalie Weyman, Fresh PR & Marketing, ph: 0438 827 766 e:firstname.lastname@example.org