Tourism hit by quarantine decision
The head of Christmas Island's local government says the coronavirus quarantine is smashing its tourism industry.
Hundreds of Australian citizens and permanent residents are in isolation or on their way to the Indian Ocean territory after being evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
They are in quarantine at the island’s immigration detention facility, which is located 15 km from the main population centre, at the opposite end of the island.
Authorities say there is no risk of residents being exposed to the virus, especially given that there are no confirmed places on the island.
However, Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson says tourists will still be deterred from visiting the island.
“I've noticed some idiotic comments from some people in the tourism industry on Christmas Island who seem to think it's a good idea and that people in quarantine are going to think it's a wonderful place and want to come back as tourists,” Mr Thomson told reporters.
“The world is looking at Christmas Island where people are incarcerated for potentially having a communicable disease.
“It's an extraordinary event and a hysterical response.
“It's obviously ruinous to the tourism industry. People are cancelling bookings, I know that, and raising their eyebrows when [residents] say they're going back to Christmas Island.”
Christmas Island Tourism development manager Philip Tubb said the shire president’s comments are not helping.
“No one in this organisation is of the opinion that what is going on is a great thing for tourism; in fact, it's quite the opposite,” he said.
“We're in a sense, like many people, victims of a pretty awful situation in terms of reputational damage.
“But by the same token, this is a worldwide issue and people are dying. I think it needs to be kept in context as well.”
Christmas Island tourism operators want visitors to help bring a positive light to the situation.
“Just like with the [detention centre], the massively distorted NEGATIVE PUBLICITY from this overshadows the fact that Christmas Island is the Galapagos of Australia,” the operators of luxury eco-resort Swell Lodge posted on Facebook.