Push to open up national parks
QUEENSLAND's pristine national parks could be opened up for tourists, potentially allowing eco-resorts, accommodation and attractions, as part of a push to help the Sunshine State reclaim its mantle as Australia's tourism capital.
Tourism and Events Queensland chairman Brett Godfrey said the state had some of the world's best national parks, but no way of taking advantage of them.
"We do not have one person who can sleep in a bed in a national park in Queensland," he said.
"No one says New Zealand has really buggered up their national parks by opening tourism."
The push could pave the way for places such as the Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island to become home to new tourism ventures.
Mr Godfrey, the co-founder of Virgin Australia airlines, was appointed as TEQ chairman two months ago by Tourism Minister Kate Jones. He said making some of our natural attractions more accessible would give Queensland a winning edge.
He will meet with new Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch in the new year to discuss ways to bring more tourism opportunities to national parks, an area which is big business in the US, New Zealand and Tasmania, but lacking here.
"This adventure tourism market is the fastest growing tourism sector in the world and we have some of the best national parks in the world, but we are not taking advantage of it."
Environmentalists have long opposed tourism development in national parks, but Mr Godfrey said such a move could improve parks rather than destroy them.
"Look at what they have done in New Zealand with the Milford Track, or down in Tasmania now with the Three Capes," he said.
"To get back on top in the tourism industry, Queensland needs to be the best at something and we are renowned as having some of the best natural experiences in the world."
While international visitor numbers to Queensland continue to increase, the growth rate is lower than some other states. Queensland's share of the total international market has been sliced from more than 50 per cent to a third in the past decade.
Mr Godfrey said arresting that slide meant looking in different directions.
"Getting back to the days of having a 50 per cent share of the market is going to be a massive challenge," he said.
"The world has changed and even though we have some of the best beaches in the world, so does Bali and Fiji.
"Just giving people a beach holiday isn't going to cut it anymore.
"People want more experiences.
"Tasmania took a big leap 10 years ago to allow eco-tourism and they are smacking it out of the park."
Ms Jones backed Mr Godfrey's experience in recognising opportunities for the state's tourism industry.
"He's driven and knows how to back a winner," she said.
"Our government will continue to invest heavily in tourism and back up Brett to drive tourism growth in Queensland."
The need to open up national parks and other wild areas was a major theme in The Courier-Mail's #GoQld campaign to stimulate economic opportunities in the state's regions.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said we needed to show the same ambition as tourism competitors such as Tasmania and New Zealand.
1. THORSBORNE TRAIL: Well known to nature lovesr, the 32km trail runs across the tropical paradise of Hinchenbrook Island in north Queensland.
2. FRASER ISLAND: Stretching 120km from tip to tail, vast tracks of pristine land on Fraser are completely untouched.
3. LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK: With its proximity to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, Lamington's natural beauty is seriously underrated.
4. THE DAINTREE: Its remote location hinders number of visitors but spectacular scenery appeals to visitors from across the globe.
5. UNDARA VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK: Has basic acommodation but would be demand for more facilities, particularly after its star turn in latest Queensland tourism campaign.