DestinationQ is the peak tourism industry partnership between the Queensland Government and the tourism sector. A forum is organised once a year and its current format is a one-day free event. Having started in 2012, this year’s edition happened in Mackay on 25 October. Among the more than 300 participants included the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, some cabinet ministers, tourism peak lobbying groups, tourism operators and academics. The Griffith Institute for Tourism was represented by Prof Susanne Becken, Dr Ying Wang and A/Prof Gui Lohmann. Other academics from UQ, Bond University, QUT also attended.

The day started with a presentation from the premier who was clearly aiming to show optimism about the future of tourism in Queensland, mainly as an economical alternative to the end of the mining boom. The premier informed that currently there is a shortage of 20,000 tourism workers and wishes that tourism can become a career choice, rather than a temporary, casual seasonal occupation. However, no clear path was provided linking how registered training organisations or the higher education sector should be engaged in this process. Following the Premier, the Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Honorable Kate Jones MP, gave a talk.

The program then offered five possible sessions which were repeated in the morning and afternoon. The topics of the sessions included “Transport and connectivity”, “Workforce skill and quality”, “Creating digital experiences”,”Event value optimisation”, and “Tourism infrastructure and investment”. While some sessions had prominent tourism executives like Julieanne Alroe, from Brisbane Airport Corporation, others had successful local entrepreneurs. One of the distinct aspects was the disconnect between the very high-level presentations of the State Government leaders and some of the parallel sessions that were very specific about the particular issues of individual destinations or businesses. It would have been an excellent opportunity if the thematic sessions were used to debate some of the problems currently faced by the tourism industry to support tourism policy planning and development.

In the afternoon, two sessions (“Tourism experiences, products and skills” and “Infrastructure & Investment” ) included some cabinet ministers. Particularly striking was the gender balance and the young age of some ministers – some with less than 40 years-old. This was supported by an apparent effort from many cabinet ministers to mingle with the attendees during the Networking Reception. As an example, Dr Ying Wang and A/Prof Gui Lohmann had a relaxing conversation of nearly half an hour with the Honorable Coralee O’Rourke, Minister for Disability Services, Minister for Seniors and Minister Assistant the Premier on North Queensland and her chief of staff. Both were genuinely interested to know more about what universities are currently doing to support tourism.

Apart from a fantastic opportunity to network, attending DestinationQ was also an excellent way to support the tourism industry. It is not uncommon through engagement with industry to hear a complaint that academics only approach business and government leaders to ask for an interview or funds. Attendance to DestinationQ is a nice way to support our Industry.

Unfortunately, the day was saddened by the horrific news of the accident at Dreamworld and the four deaths occurred there.

Photos of DestinationQ forum 2016:

See more photos at Destination Q facebook page

This article was written by Griffith Institute for Tourism member, Gui Lohmann.