THE TOWN of Airlie Beach was buzzing over the weekend, with the Airlie Beach Marathon Festival in full swing and a cruise ship anchoring in the bay, on Sunday.
Around 1,000 participants, supporters and volunteers flocked to the Whitsundays for the ninth annual Tassal Group Airlie Beach Marathon Festival, with races held along the Airlie Beach and Cannonvale foreshores and catering for ages four and up.
With cruise ship passengers in town as well, on Sunday, Airlie Beach was packed with people on the weekend, giving businesses a very welcome boost.
The Coral Princess had around 2,400 guests and crew on board.
Of those, more than 950 guests came ashore to visit Airlie and surrounds, with some doing shore tours booked on board the ship and others doing tours booked independently.
“Airlie Beach, along with Eden, in NSW, are the standout ports when it comes to the welcome the community gives cruise visitors,” a spokesman for Carnival Cruises Australia said.
Tourism Whitsundays’ CEO Rick Hamilton said the weekend was ‘alive’ with visitors.
“With more than 400 competitors taking part in the Tassal Group Airlie Beach Marathon Festival and the Coral Princess bringing over 900 passengers to Airlie Beach to enjoy our vibrant town and tour offerings, the weekend was alive with visitors enjoying our stunning backyard,” he said.
“(Hotel) occupancy hovered around 75 per cent over the weekend.
“Cruise ships provide a welcome boost to the local economy with statistics showing that the average cruise ship passenger spends $150 on onshore excursions.
“The Whitsundays was due to welcome approximately 85 cruise ships (based on 2019/20 confirmed numbers prior to COVID-19), which would have brought approximately $21m into the local economy.
“In the 2019/2020 financial year, we welcomed over 80,000 guests via cruise ships (as at February 21, 2020).”
Beach Book Boutique’s owner Belinda Harris said her book shop next to the Airlie Lagoon had certainly benefitted.
“The last few days have been great,” she said, noting all of July had been good due to it being school holidays.
“It’s mainly the cruise ship passengers for me. Even though it was the smallest day’s takings for the month, due to the school holidays, it still ended up being a great day.”
With regards to reported COVID outbreaks onboard cruise ships, a Carnival Cruises spokesperson said cruise ships were operating successfully under the new protocols developed by the cruise industry in conjunction with federal and state authorities.
“Our rigorous onboard surveillance also involves regular testing of crew. Anyone – guest or crew – who returns a positive test is isolated, as well as their close contacts,” he said.
“We continue to operate in close collaboration with Queensland Health with all due regard for the health and wellbeing of our guests and crew and for the local community.”