‘No one wearing masks’: Victorians freak out in FNQ freedom
THE Far North is in for a desperately needed $125m economic summer boost as Queensland welcomes back Victorian and Sydney visitors.
Flights are expected to be at about 60 per cent capacity by Christmas with 5000 seats available per week.
One return Jetstar flight from Melbourne arrived in Cairns on Tuesday, just hours after the border reopened to Victoria for the first time in 250 days, while there were two Sydney flights.
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning called the arrivals "the start of a new dawn".
"I think we've waited a long time for this," he said. "We will welcome them with open arms. We are on the road to recovery."
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chairman Ken Chapman said the Far North typically saw 350,000 Victorians and 200,000 Sydneysiders annually, so their return was vital to the economy.
"Coming into the Christmas/New Year period, traditionally we're very busy with domestic tourists and we will be again this year," he said.
"It's going to be a massive difference to the economy and … a massive difference to the people who can get out of lockdown in Melbourne … and get up here to paradise."
TTNQ chief executive Mark Olsen said accommodation bookings were up almost 300 and 200 per cent for Port Douglas and Cairns respectively.
"The industry is really looking forward to a lift," he said. "There's a lot of pent-up demand."
Among the visitors on the first Cairns flight were Melbourne couple Ryan Gorman and Anne Herman, who decided to book a last-minute holiday on the weekend after surviving the Victorian lockdown in their inner-city unit.
"It's pretty surreal, it feels a bit weird no one is wearing masks," Mr Gorman said.
"It's been pretty tough so this feels good."
The couple hired a car at Cairns Airport yesterday and will stay in Palm Cove during their trip, with plans to visit the Daintree and Kuranda and to relax by the pool.
They were also keen to do their bit to help out the local tourism industry.
"It's important to get everyone back on their feet," Mr Gorman said.
"(We will) spend money in cafes, restaurants and shops."
Ms Herman, a university teacher, spent lockdown working from home, while Mr Gorman attended his work as a printer.
They chose the Far North for their first escape because of the warmer weather.
Originally published as 'No one wearing masks': Victorians freak out in FNQ freedom