No one can say that the flooding in Queensland is not devastating and terrible. Lives have been lost, homes have been destroyed, and experts cannot yet begin to gauge how many millions of dollars worth of damage the waters have caused.
And yet, throughout the deluge, Brisbane Airport has not only remained open, but has been operating close to schedule.
This single fact speaks volumes. It means that people are still traveling to and from Brisbane. Ian Swain, president of Australian tour operator Swain Tours (and a native of Brisbane), pointed out that the airport is a popular hub for international airlines like Qantas, V Australia and Air New Zealand. Visitors fly into Brisbane, and then transfer to local flights to go elsewhere in the state or country.
As Shana Pereira, international director of Americas for Tourism Queensland, points out, the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef are not seeing any more rain than is normal for this time of year, and the airports to both of these destinations are open and operational as well.
"The Great Barrier Reef stretches for 1,200 miles--that's the length of the U.S. West Coast," Pereira said. "There are lots of access points, and their experience of the Great Barrier Reef will not be diminished."
A majority of U.S. visitors to Australia, she added, visit both Sydney and Cairns, neither of which has been affected by the floods.
Since most travel agents work with tour operators to organize trips to Australia, Pereira suggested agents reach out to the tour operators to check in on their clients. Swain echoed this sentiment: "With our office in Australia, we have been relocating the clients that need to be on the spot," he said. "This is one of the benefits of having our own office there — the changes are made while we sleep up here!"
As the world waits to see what will happen in Queensland, the state's tourism scene seems — so far — unaffected by the flooding.
"It is terrible what is happening, and I hope that the waters subside quickly," Swain said, "but still for now, we haven't any cancelations due to this natural occurrence."