(eTN) – When most eTurboNews readers see this article, Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland will have passed the peak of the city’s flood waters. Damage assessments have undergone bewildering changes. Less than 48 hours ago the Queensland government had predicted 9,000 homes in Brisbane would be inundated. Current government estimates indicate that close to 20,000 homes and businesses in Brisbane will be flooded. Over 100,000 homes are without power, which was cut to prevent damage to the power grid in the city. The confirmed death toll from the Queensland floods is 12 with concerns for 46 people whose whereabouts are unknown.
Ipswich, a city of 160,000 people just 45 kilometers west of Brisbane has been flooded with at least 6,000 homes and business properties flooded. There were unconfirmed reports of a bull shark swimming in the swollen local river. As a discarded Queensland tourism slogan once declared, “Where else but Queensland.“ The spirit of community cooperation has been inspiring. Government ministers joined residents in assisting neighbors to protect valuables and move them to higher ground. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Queensland State Premier Anna Bligh have been comforting victims, briefing the media and working with emergency service leaders in coordinating disaster relief. The national government has offered and provided support from the military to bolster the efforts of the State Emergency Services, the police and other rescue agencies. The Australian government has received offers of support from countries all over the world. An especially poignant offer was US$1 million from Indonesia, a country which Australia has often supported when it has encountered its own litany of natural disasters.
The flooding in Australia now extends well beyond Queensland with extensive flooding in Northern and Western New South Wales and torrential rains flooding rural areas in the southern mainland state of Victoria. On the other side of the Australian continent near Perth in Western Australia fire fighters were fighting major bush fires, which had destroyed several homes.
Under the circumstances, Queensland Tourism officials could be forgiven for bunkering down until the flood crisis was over but they are actively talking up the positives of visiting Queensland.
Tourism Queensland’s web site www.tq.com.au includes and has links to flood situation information. It has highlighted the fact that many of Queensland’s tourism sites, resorts attractions and accommodation are open for business. The only major airport in the state, which is closed is the Rockhampton airport. However, airports in Brisbane, the Gold Coast (75 kilometers south of Brisbane), the Sunshine Coast and the tropical areas of far north Queensland are all operating normally. Queensland’s most popular tourism destination, Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast, which is located between flooded Brisbane and flooded northern New South Wales has been spared flooding and while road access is difficult, this charmed region is easily accessible by air.
Queensland’s tropical North coast, fringed by the Barrier Reef is operating as usual during its traditional wet season but this wet season, which has not generated flooding in the state’s north. Although parts of the Sunshine Coast (100 kilometers north of Brisbane) have been flooded, most resorts and tourism attractions are operating normally according to Tourism Queensland, despite the fact that road to and within the access can be tricky.
The message Tourism Queensland is doing its best to communicate to Australian and international tourists is that despite the very real flood crisis in the state, most of Queensland is open to tourists and ready to offer a warm welcome.
Despite Queensland Tourism’s reassuring messages many Australian holiday makers in the midst of the Australian summer holidays have either cancelled or postponed holiday arrangements in Queensland. A small silver lining to the many clouds which have hung over Queensland tourism during the flood crisis is that this time of the year is a traditional low season for much of tropical north Queensland. Queensland’s skill in tourism crisis management has been made available to the UN World Tourism Organization, PATA, and APEC. They are now applying those skills on the home front.
The Australian and Queensland governments have offered a range of compensation packages to those tourism-related businesses which have suffered loss and damage as a result of the flood crisis. The Queensland Tourism Industry Council now estimates the damage bill for the tourism industry at something like US$300 million dollars. However, the total cost of recovery in Queensland alone is currently estimated by economists at a staggering US$13 billion although it must be emphasized, this is an estimate.
The author, David Beirman, is a Senior Lecturer in Tourism at the University of Technology-Sydney.