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Cairns’ Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to close as COVID-19 hits tourism business

Cairns’ Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park to close as COVID-19 hits tourism business
January 7, 2021

Local jobs are to be lost with the announcement today that the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park near Cairns is to close.

Having operated for more than 30 years, the Park, the closure of one of Far North Queensland’s major cultural tourism attractions comes following the downturn in visitation as a result of COVID-19 halting international tourism. However, the attraction was understood to be in financial difficulty prior the Coronavirus pandemic.

Tjapukai Director Cronje Wolvaardt told the Cairns Post that staff were informed this morning that the business would not be reopening, advising “the reason for that is the fact that we’ve obviously been facing significant financial challenges for many years

“That’s been exacerbated with COVID-19.

“Most of our visitation was from international tourists … (and) that market has decreased significantly, down more than 99%.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to make the decision not to reopen.”

Wolvaardt went on to state “we’ve looked at the various options to continue the business but none of those have been feasible

“The business has injected more than $40 million into the local economy over the years and has always been a very strong employer of Indigenous employees.

“We are working with traditional owners regarding what the future use of the site will be.”

Having first operated from Kuranda, the attraction moved into its Smithfield premises in 1996. The site was relaunched with a new design and new facilities in 2015 following a $13 million redevelopment.  

Commenting on the closure, Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive, Mark Olsen said the industry’s thoughts were with Tjapukai’s staff, stating “this will be a really difficult time for the staff both past and present who have made an enormous contribution to showcasing Indigenous tourism over the past 33 years.

“The closure of Tjapukai is a great loss to the tourism industry as it is a foundation product that set the benchmark for Indigenous cultural tourism experiences in Australia.”

TTNQ Chair, Ken Chapman said the closure was a tough decision, but an understandable one with the uncertainty around international and domestic tourism, noting “thIs demonstrates just how hard it is for businesses that are successful in the international market to continue trading.

“It also reinforces why tourism businesses need ongoing support to tackle the challenges ahead.”

Images: Tjapukai staff members welcome former Australian Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to the attraction in 2015 (top) and Tjapukai dancers perform (below).

Related Articles

4th January 2021 - Policy body warns that thousands of tourism businesses face closure without $1 billion lifeline

29th December 2020 - Preparing for a tourism revival in 2021

23rd December 2020 - ABS figures show part-time tourism jobs exceeding full-time positions for first time

2nd December 2020 - 2020 Queensland Government Budget provides record funding for arts, sport and tourism

30th October 2020 - Cairns Regional Council endorses plan for Reef management

23rd October 2020 - New Tourism Tropical North Queensland leader to guide region’s recovery

11th September 2020 - Queensland Police lay charges over Cairns bush rave

13th August 2020 - Indigenous tourism hit hard by Coronavirus crisis

13th May 2020 - UNWTO says international tourism faces worst crisis since records began

13th February 2020 - Indigenous tourism in Cairns to receive new funding

3rd February 2020 - Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia Chief Executive acknowledged in Australia Day Honours

12th February 2020 - Cairns tourism boosted by new international campaigns

10th February 2020 - Experience Co cuts Cairns tourism jobs in restructuring

11th November 2019 - Queensland Government announces 2020 as the Year of Indigenous Tourism

18th March 2019 - Cairns tourism industry leaders call for changes to marketing of Far North Queensland

24th May 2018 - Traditional owner appointed as Tjapukai General Manager.

28th August 2017 - Tjapukai promotes Traditional Owner to senior role

14th July 2015 - PATA Report puts a focus on pressures in Asia Pacific Indigenous tourism

11th June 2015 - Tourism industry stalwart appointed TTNQ chair

30th January 2015 - Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park appoints new Chief Executive

13th March 2014 - Mentoring adds to staff skills at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

23rd January 2014 - Tjapukai farewells Creation Theatre

23rd May 2013 - Tjapukai bids for Australian Indigenous museum

19th February 2013 - Tjapukai to begin $12 million redevelopment

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