Far North expected to suffer $1b coronavirus hit
THE impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Far Northern economy is now expected to last up to eight months and come at a cost of more than $1 billion, according to the region's peak tourism body.
Employees of local small business are being forced to sign up for Centrelink assistance as management cuts hours and lays off workers to keep afloat in the wake of restrictions placed on international arrivals.
The boom gate on Mossman Gorge is expected to close on Wednesday as thousands of dollars in function revenue are also lost in cancelled Cairns Convention Centre bookings.
Tourism Tropical North executive officer Mark Olsen said the expected effect of the pandemic would be far worse than initially predicted, despite assurances being made that it was safe to travel to Cairns on domestic airline carriers.
"Already we have seen the forward bookings on aircraft and through travel distribution systems drop, so we know that this will be a sustained impact," he said.
Originally forecasting a $330 million impact to the Far North Queensland economy between January and March, TTNQ now estimates the economic impact will be worth up to $1 billion.
"Overnight we have seen (business) cancellations across the board in our hotels and our convention centre," he said.
Tourism operator Michael Trout said trade was down 70 per cent off the back of reduced flights and travel restrictions.
"March has been our worst month of trading in 28 years," he said.
Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said despite impacts of the pandemic he was not overly concerned about people's health.
"Cairns Hospital will be making further beds available through a fever centre that will be established in the new wing that has been constructed for mental health," he said.