BYTE UPDATE: Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays are open for business

It’s now been almost a month since Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays were hit by devastating Cyclone Debbie. Today, at ATE, The Byte got the update from Tourism Whitsundays and youth tourism operators. Al Grundy from Explore Whitsundays which manifests 18 sailing vessels was very positive, stating “we lost only 6 days of sailing”.

Certainly many of the high end island resorts, such as Hayman, Hamilton and Daydream were hard hit and are now going through a period of refurbishment and Whitsunday Sailing which markets for 14 sailing vessels and a resort unfortunately lost one of their boats, ‘Silent Night’, to the weather. But “it’s business as usual. The weather is stunning and the flights from Brisbane and Sydney are the cheapest ever” said Gabby Shaw, Whitsunday Sailing’s Sales and Marketing Manager “there’s never been a better time to visit the Whitsundays” she added.

At sea reports vary, the fringing reefs around the islands were also smashed. Popular Blue Pearl and Manta Ray Bays have received considerable damage. Operators are now going to Stonehaven and Butterfly Bay. However the colourful fish life has remained and rejuvenation of the coral will happen in nature’s time. Iconic Whitehaven Beach was untouched and looks spectacular as ever remaining as one of the biggest draw cards for the region.

On land, all the hostels are now up and running and open for business. Many trees in Airlie Beach were damaged and stripped of their leaves. But being in the tropics, everything regrows remarkably quickly and will recover.

As a secondary result of the cyclone, inland flooding caused widespread damage and the runoff back into the ocean resulted in poor visibility. Only in the past week has this improved and snorkelling become possible.

Perhaps the positives resulting from this natural devastation are the abilities of the community and locals to come together, clean up and get on with life, business and tourism.

With financial relief, some projects have been fast tracked. One such project on Whitsunday Island will see a new viewing platform and track being built. There will now be platforms at both ends of the island overlooking Whitehaven Beach, thus alleviating overcrowding at this popular spot.

The reopening of many tourism businesses had generated an exciting buzz within the industry. “Sailing, flying or rafting around the Whitsundays, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and visiting postcard perfect locations are bucket-list items for so many people — with balmy weather ahead of us, now is the perfect time to holiday at home and tick these items off your list” said Jan Claxton of Ocean Rafting Whitsundays.

Overall, the youth market has been hit the least. Overnight sailing remains the main reason for Whitsunday visitation. 44% of all bed nights are on boats visiting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

If you are considering sending clients to the Whitsundays, conditions are now ideal, with daily temperatures at 26’C and a pleasant 19’C overnight. The Whitsundays are firmly open for business.

Don’t believe me? Rather see so for yourself? Easy, get yourself along to the Adventure Queensland Ball, support Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays and see so for yourself!

Written by Mike Barrow who is attending ATE 2017 in Sydney.

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