Far North Queensland tourism industry open for business after ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper

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Tourism authorities say Cyclone Jasper has cost the industry $60 million in lost visitor expenditure and are urging travellers not to give up on Far North Queensland.

Much of the region is breathing a sigh of relief after escaping serious damage from the category 2 system, which passed near Wujal Wujal, north of Port Douglas, on Wednesday night.

But the tourism cities of Cairns and Port Douglas have suffered a financial blow in the wake of the storm, with cancelled accommodation bookings and tours.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Mark Olsen said it was a concerning loss for the region’s major employer, with international travel still well below pre-pandemic levels.

“We’ve seen $60 million worth of lost visitor expenditure between now and the 22nd of December, which is normally a peak time for both international and interstate holiday makers,” he said.

“With [ex-]Tropical Cyclone Jasper now downgraded and heading across to the Gulf, tourism here in tropical north Queensland is ready to welcome visitors from around Australia and the world.”

Cairns Airport reopened on Thursday.

Widespread cancellations

Cairns Adventure Group director Roderic Rees, who ran whitewater rafting experiences, said there had been “widespread cancellations across all tours”.

“We have lost 20 to 30 per cent of the forward bookings, or about $300,000” Mr Rees said.

“The message is the cyclone has passed. It’s nothing we don’t deal with every wet season and the region is beautiful.”

Ben Woodward from the Capta group, which ran tourism experiences, said they had lost about $500,000 a day in bookings.

“We have been closed for a couple of days now but things are back on track and we expect to open all of our parks on Saturday,” he said.

wife and husband smile for camera

Sherri and George Sherryn arrived on board a cruise ship and look forward to exploring Cairns.(ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

Some tourists have begun arriving in the city, with luxury cruise ship the Seven Seas Explorer docking in Cairns Friday morning.

American tourist Sherri Sherryn, one of 700 passengers on board, said she was eager to explore the city.

“We are going to start walking. We have been prisoners on the ship for two-and-half days and we’re going to check out some restaurants.”

Ms Sherryn said they kept an eye on Cyclone Jasper while at sea.

“When we looked out at our cabin you could see the chop,” she said.

elderly couple smile for camera

John Callcutt and his wife said they were looking forward to visiting Cairns.(ABC Far North: Brendan Mounter)

English tourist John Callcutt said at one stage the ship was “catching up with the cyclone”.

“It was a bit ominous but we weren’t worried,” he said.

“The weather bothers us a bit but these things happen and I’m sure it’s a lovely place, even in the rain.”

Clean up continues

Meanwhile, the clean-up is continuing in Far North Queensland.

Around 15,000 people were without power on Friday afternoon as a result of Cyclone Jasper, with flood warnings in place to the north of Cairns in the Daintree and Mossman areas.

A felled tree on a colourful sign

The cyclone knocked down a tree on the sign for Dougie’s Backpackers Resort in Port Douglas.(ABC Gold Coast: Mackenzie Colahan)

About 600 millimetres of rain had been recorded over the Barron River catchment since 9am on Wednesday.

The Queensland and federal governments have activated disaster assistance for the Cairns, Cook, Douglas, Hopevale, Wujal Wujal and Yarrabah councils.

Residents in Douglas and Wujal Wujal can also apply for $180 personal hardship assistance grants, with up to $900 available for families.

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