It’s the midweek holiday Queenslanders look forward to each and every year.
But the Ekka public holiday will now be moved from a Wednesday to a Friday instead, offering the state an extra long weekend which would benefit tourism operators.
While the Ekka, Queensland’s largest annual event, was cancelled in 2020 – residents were told they’d still be given the Wednesday public holiday.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told state parliament on Thursday that after careful consideration, the public holiday would now fall on Friday August 14.
“People’s Day will become People’s long weekend and we do this with the support of the RNA (Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Australia),” the premier said.
“This year I call on everyone from the city to go to the bush, go to the beach, or have a break and support our tourism industry.
“If we can’t have sample bags we should pack our travel bags to enjoy this one-off holiday to support our local businesses.”
Earlier this week, tourism operators across the state – including Bernie O’Keefe from Tangalooma Island Resort – said making the midweek public holiday into a long weekend would be huge help to the industry.
“When you get a long weekend you often do an extra trip to the Gold Coast or to North Stradbroke Island for that weekend,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“We think it would make a major difference to tourism operators compared to a midweek break.”
Mr O’Keefe said the move to change the date would allow the industry to start clawing back at the millions lost to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to stand down more than 300 people and we’ve refunded millions of dollars to customers who had bookings,” Mr O’Keefe said.
“It’s been absolutely devastating to the resort and it’s being played out right across the state.”
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the idea to move the date was worth considering because he felt Queenslanders will be given more relaxed restrictions around travel by then.
“I think it would give us an additional incentive to turn the dreams we’ve all had over the last few months of travelling into reality,” he told the Courier Mail.
“We’ve lost the Ekka so we’re not anchored to that anymore and assuming the holiday still goes ahead we might as well try to make a long weekend for Brisbane people.”
Social media users were torn over the new date, with many happy to keep the day off on a Wednesday.
“Leave it as is!” one person wrote. “Everybody wants to change dates to suit them leave it alone.”
“We should not be overconfident and ruin what’s been achieved, perseverance is the key,” another added.
“I like taking two days off for a 5 day holiday and not having every man and his dog choking the highway,” another said.
Earlier today, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Queensland’s Transport Minister Mark Bailey hit out at NSW over their decision to keep their border open, and encourage statewide travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged neighbouring states – especially Queensland – to reconsider border closures, saying the move is damaging to Australia’s overall economic recovery.
Mr Bailey said Queensland would not be “lectured” by the “worst performing state in Australia”.
“There are 33 times the number of active cases in NSW compared to Queensland. So, NSW needs to get its act together and get its community transmission down and we’ll all be better off throughout this nation, including in Queensland,” he said to media on Thursday.
“It’s time for Gladys and the NSW government to get their act together and to start performing as well as Queensland has done on the health front.
“We’ve had provisions in place from the very beginning on our public transport system to minimise risks such as rear-door boarding, cashless ticketing and ensuring that people are well aware of how to socially distance. And those communications will increase in coming days.”
On Wednesday, Ms Palaszczuk said it was far too early to consider interstate travel, given dining at cafes and restaurants had only recently been allowed.
“Let’s take a realistic look here, we’ve only just opened cafes and restaurants to 10 people,” she said.
“We are saying to people in the second stage you can travel 250km from where you live, then in the third stage we are saying you can travel anywhere around Queensland.