Tourism Whitsundays has hit back at “unbalanced” reporting by 60 Minutes, after the program claimed the region was “in a state of disarray”.
The report, aired on Sunday, investigated the closure and abandonment of more than half of the 30 hotels, resorts and bars throughout the Whitsundays, with 9news calling the region “a literal paradise lost”.
“The growing threat of climate change and international holiday habits have seen buyers and developers reluctant to put money or resources into restoring the Whitsundays,” 9news said, adding that Cyclone Yasi had ravaged Lindeman Island and Dunk Island – both are now closed.
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Natassia Wheeler on Monday called the story “unbalanced” and “nothing short of a ratings grab”.
“Last night 60 Minutes aired a story with regard to the islands. This story was not a balanced look at island resorts on the Whitsunday Coast,” Wheeler said in a statement, adding: “While it could have been a sad, disheartening story the fact of the matter is, the Whitsundays have relished in the re-opening of some of the most iconic island resorts following major refurbishments and redevelopment.”
Further investments in the region include a multi-million-dollar proposal by the owners of new resort Elysian Retreat on Long Island; a $500 million investment over 10 years by Hamilton Island Enterprises; and a proposal by Lindeman Island for three new resorts, 325 suites and villas for a total development cost of $583 million.
Wheeler said 60 Minutes’ coverage was “crushing” given Tourism Whitsundays joint marketing activity to promote the return of the region.
“With the promise of promoting the region, reminding people that the island resorts are up and running, the mainland and islands are full of amazing experiences for holiday makers to come and enjoy,” she said.
“The disappointment felt at the same network running a ‘beat-up’ story that wasn’t entirely factual was crushing.
“Particularly given the fact that the positive information surrounding the Whitsunday Islands is not a hidden fact.”
Whitsundays Regional Council mayor Andrew Willcox said the report had left out “glaring facts” about the region, including the reopening of Daydream Island and Hayman Island.
“Our tourism industry deserves better and it is basically unAustralian for a media outlet to decide on an agenda that suits their storyline rather than present the true facts,” Willcox said.
“The fact is that we now have seven resorts on islands open across the Whitsunday region most recently with Elysian Retreat, Daydream and Hayman island all welcoming guests.
“Our tourism industry offers outstanding product which is endorsed by our success in winning four national titles at the Australian Tourism Awards.”
The resorts that are currently open throughout the Whitsundays include:
- Palm Bay Resort
- Daydream Island Resort
- InterContinental Hayman Island Resort
- Hamiliton Island
- Elysian Retreat
- Camp Island Lodge, and
- Whitsunday Apartments Hamilton Island.
Here’s a snapshot of the completed and in progress investment provided by Tourism Whitsundays:
- $500m+ (over 10 years) Hamilton Island
- $135m Hayman Island
- $120m+ Daydream Island
- $40m Whitsunday Coast Airport
- $6.3m Airlie Beach Foreshore
- $500,000 Island Short Walks Infrastructure
- $2m Hill Inlet upgrade and expansion
- $1m Peter Faust Dam Tourism Infrastructure Development
- $1m Flagstaff Hill Interpretive Center
- $900,000+ Reef Ecologic – Underwater sculptures (a Great Barrier Reef first)
- $Multi- Million Elysian Retreat
- $Multi- Million Freedom Shores / Northerlies
- $Multi- Million Coral Sea Marina Resort.