Far North Queensland tourism operators are jumping for joy at the easing of travel restrictions, but those in a region the size of Victoria are not so impressed.

There is growing anger over a decision to keep Far North Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula closed while coronavirus travel restrictions ease in the rest of the state.
Key points:

  • Queenslanders can travel freely across the state from June 1 except those in designated biosecurity areas
  • Cook Shire, which covers most of Cape York, is among the areas subject to restrictions despite not being an Indigenous community
  • Tourism operators in the Cairns region are “ecstatic” about the easing of restrictions

From today, most Queenslanders can travel and stay in places overnight as part of next stage of restrictions easing.
But Cape York an area the same size as Victoria remains in lockdown, largely due to the Indigenous communities within the region.
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Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott said he was disappointed Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk would not be easing restrictions in his vast electorate at the same time as the rest of Queensland.
“Nice to know that Cape York is not part of Queensland,” Mr Scott said.
“I think the decision by the Premier announcing free movement throughout Queensland was very poorly done.
“We’re going to get absolutely belted with people saying, I heard the Premier said we can come in, yet we are still under Federal Government biosecurity restrictions.”
Mr Scott said 30,000 people live in Cape York and many did not live in Indigenous communities.
“We have been lobbying for a long time for kids to be able to go to boarding school and be able to come home, for people to be able to come up for compassionate purposes to see their dying parents,” he said.
“Remote cattle property owners want to be able to come into the region to do some fire burning mitigation.”
Police and Australian Defence Force personnel are manning a checkpoint on the road to Cape York.(Supplied: Department of Defence, Pte Madhur Chitnis)
Premier says Cape bound by federal laws
Ms Palaszczuk travelled to Cairns on Monday to meet with tourism industry representatives and local businesses.
She said while she understood the concerns, Cape York was operating under a Federal Government Biosecurity Act.
“Of course we would like to see those restrictions lifted as soon as practical,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
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The state’s Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford, said he hoped the Biosecurity Act would be lifted on June 12.
“We are working with those communities, we are working with every single mayor and every disaster management group and they are in the process of making their own health directives,” he said.
“But until the 12th, the Cape and Indigenous communities will continue to operate under that Biosecurity Act.”
Tourism operators ‘ecstatic’ about easing restrictions
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive, Mark Olsen, welcomed the move to bring Stage Two of easing restrictions forward by a fortnight.
He said the region lost more than $200 million worth of bookings in March, with the impact to the end of April estimated at $500 million in lost visitor spending and thousands of jobs lost.
“Over the last 24 hours, the phones have been ringing off the hook with travellers from the south-east corner confirming their accommodation and looking forward to their journeys, ” Mr Olsen said.
“We are absolutely ecstatic about the easing restrictions and we are looking forward to when interstate travel resumes.”
Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen bungy jumping to mark the easing of travel restrictions in Queensland.(Supplied: AJ Hackett)
Flights in and out of Cairns have almost ground to a halt since the travel restrictions began, with some airlines now charging $1,000 for a one-way ticket to Brisbane.
Ms Palaszczuk said that while flights within the state remain limited, she believed the airline industry would respond quickly to the lifting of travel restrictions.
“We’re definitely going to be talking to the airlines, and this will give them the confidence to put on more flights,” she said.
Pacific Hotel Cairns general manager, Tim Moloney, said there had been increased interest from customers since the Premier’s announcement, but hotel bookings had not been overwhelming.
He said hotel prices were likely to remain lower than normal for the region’s peak tourism season.
“I think you’ll find there will be a slight reduction in prices until an increase in demand comes across the board,” Mr Moloney said.
” Certainly there will be a lot of hotels coming out of a period of slumber.”
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