A pioneering reef tourism operator today confirmed it would slash staff as the end of Jobkeeper looms with no international visitors on the horizon.
A pioneering reef tourism operator today confirmed it would slash staff as the end of Jobkeeper looms with no international visitors on the horizon.

Major reef tourism operator shedding staff

MAJOR Far North reef tourism operator Quicksilver will start shedding staff from today as it suffers the pronounced absence of international visitors and the looming end of the Jobkeeper wage subsidy.

Quicksilver group managing director Tony Baker said the cruise company relied on international tourists for 70 per cent of its revenue and forecasts on when global travel might kickstart were gloomy.

He would not confirm the number of casual staff who were told today their jobs were gone, but said Quicksilver currently employed 450 people.

"It is obviously a difficult time and unfortunately we have to say goodbye to some wonderful people," Mr Baker said.

Quicksilver Group managing director Tony Baker says the company has no choice but to reduce its staff of 450 as its suite of services operates at less than 50 per cent capacity. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Quicksilver Group managing director Tony Baker says the company has no choice but to reduce its staff of 450 as its suite of services operates at less than 50 per cent capacity. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

"I won't be the only business - it's coming to a time where we need to look at transitioning to what is more workable."

"We are having discussions with a number of casual staff, most of whom haven't received any work for a couple of months - and we can't provide the hours going forward.

Like many tourism businesses, the Quicksilver range - which includes dive and snorkel excursions from both Cairns and Port Douglas as well as Green Island Resort - was operating at reduced capacity.

Mr Baker said the businesses were running at less than 50 per cent capacity.

Quicksilver’s range of experiences in the Far North is feeling the pinch with no international tourists on the horizon this year at least. Picture: Rob McFarland.
Quicksilver’s range of experiences in the Far North is feeling the pinch with no international tourists on the horizon this year at least. Picture: Rob McFarland.

"Jobkeeper has been very beneficial for both businesses and staff and the Federal government has indicated it is coming to an end on March 28," Mr Baker said.

He said although international tourists made up 30 per cent of visitors numbers in the region, they accounted for 70 per cent of Quicksilver's income.

"The most recent commentary is that we are not going to see international tourists for some time, and with the end of Jobkeeper we need to look at the business to ensure we are catering for the number of guests we expect to carry going forward, we need to look at the number of staff, so we have started consultation and started a process," he said.

"Jobkeeper has been fantastic, but we have quite a lot of staff only working one or two days and it is not sustainable.

Jetstar and Virgin Australia passenger jets sit idle at the Cairns International Airport, not in service due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Jetstar and Virgin Australia passenger jets sit idle at the Cairns International Airport, not in service due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"We'd like to get to a stage where we can offer staff more reasonable hours.

"We are in a period that is traditionally quiet for the domestic market - right now it would usually be very busy with internationals for Chinese Year and those customers are not here."

He said the increase in domestic traffic was not enough to offset the loss of internationals.

"I would agree with the comment that the opening and closing of borders created concerns about confidence as far as bookings go, I understand the government needs to react quickly but there is a flow-on effect to business confidence.

"We had strong bookings through December 20, but there was the Brisbane lockdown then Victoria," Mr Baker said.

"Late last year I was very hopeful we would start to see some of the international markets start to return by mid-year via travel bubbles, but it hasn't transpired that way and the date seems to be constantly pushed back."

Originally published as Major FNQ reef tourism operator shedding staff



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