Magnetic Island North Queensland
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June 27th 2012
Sealink’s secret plan for Island tours

A Sealink cat enters Nelly Bay Harbour In the depths of the worst tourist season in decades and with Magnetic Island charter, nature and snorkelling tour operators holding on for dear life, it appears a big new operator, Sealink, who run the passenger ferry service to Magnetic Island, are soon to enter the game.

It is thought that Sealink are planning a round-Magnetic tour, three days per week which will include snorkelling trips with a stop-over at locations such as Radical and Huntingfield Bays with pick up and drop offs back to Nelly Bay. It is also thought that initially they are planning to use the Pacific Cat ferry for the tours which they can direct passengers to straight from their ferry ticketing offices at the Townsville Breakwater terminal.

Providence Sailing proprietor, Grant Lewis, who met with Sealink's General Manager, Paul Victory today, told Magnetic Times,” We are pretty gutted. There’s only two of us (nature based snorkel tours) left on the Island. Why take over what the little boats are doing. It’s hard enough as it is. To survive I run two weeks on and then work two weeks with the Coral Princess just to keep going.

“I’m disappointed that Sealink are not going to be market leaders but market followers. They could have started a (Great Barrier) Reef or Palm Island tour but, instead, they are riding on the horse’s back - the little operators. It’s nothing to be proud of.”

Magnetic Times understand that Sealink are planning a TV campaign to promote their tours.

For the moment however, Sealink are remaining tight-lipped about their plans. Marketing Manager, Nadia Jones, said, “We have a few things in the works for SeaLink Queensland in the pipeline for the new financial year that we will release in due time. I don’t have any concrete facts about any of the work to give you at this time, however I will let you know once there’s something to tell.”

“Everything we spend is on the Island,” said Grant who is concerned that the flow on expenditure on Magnetic Island from businesses such as his won't happen with Sealink's operation.

The other operator believed to be most affected is Aquascene Charters run by Adam and Stephanie Hinks of Horseshoe Bay. They were unavailable for comment.

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Sealink’s secret plan for Island tours
June 26th 2012
I have sympathy for the local operators but on the other hamd, last year I tried to contact the Providence operator as I had a group of friends visiting who were interested. left message for them and NEVER received a reply, so unless operators can operate efficiently then bring on the big operators
June 26th 2012
With one short, notable exception when Sunferries had genuine and committed local owners our ferry service has not stepped up to the "local" mark since the days of Hayles. Trips round the Palms Group would be sensational - I bet there are very few in the region who have ever experienced the great beauty and fantastic snorkelling up there - so create a genuine new offer for our visitors and for local residents too. - and at least support Island business in these difficult times by laying off their small patch of turf.
June 26th 2012
Even Sunferries could not sustain their monopoly Reef Trips when times got tough - and it wasn't about the quality of the experience or the competence of the operation. Probably (and I'm no expert), there's a certain demographic with a certain budget that just might occupy a ferry for a half day trip around the Island - that could not afford the cost or threat of rough weather and seasickness traveling to the Palms. Must Sealink's "secret" plan be portrayed as all negative, all glass half-full?
Just possibly there will be an opportunity for local Island businesses to piggy back on Sealink's tours which surely will showcase Magnetic Island's scenic coastline and World Heritage setting. Sealink will no doubt bring new blood - tourists, even mainland locals that would otherwise not bother about the Island. Can't we be positive about a new tourism initiative which could be a life boat for a tropical Titanic.
June 27th 2012
I agree that we should be positive about a business trying to breathe new life into tourism in the Townsville Region and on the island.

Ideally, it would be great if Sealink would be able to alternate day trips to Maggie Island, The Palm Group and The Great Barrier Reef as this would appeal to a wider range of people and obviously encourage guests to embark on all three destinations on offer.

I do understand that the previous company Sunferries ran trips out to the reef but they used a large boat and employed dive crews as well as their staff. I believe that if they run a small boat and initially do not incorporate the dive operation that this idea could become a great success for their business and the Townsville region.

I don't believe that this would affect operations for Providence or Aquascene as they offer a completely different product ie: Sailing and small group tours compared to a large catamaran....but Grant and Lindsay will always continue to complain and whinge in their 'vendetta' to improve the island. Maybe they should focus on promoting and running their business effectively.

June 27th 2012
If I could I would never travel on Sealink. The service and attitude of the company towards locals is way below par and this just proves it yet again. Whenever I can I take the Barge to Townsville. It takes a little longer but they provide a much better service. Or I just try and minimise my trips to Townsville. Maybe the tour operators should try doing "sightseeing" trips to Townsville and back
Paul Mills
June 27th 2012
I agree with Chasmac,
I think it's time to think outside the box.
Wendy Tubman
June 27th 2012
A sorkelling trip around the Palms - I'd pay for that!

While I sympathise with those affected by the potential change in the market, I trust that those who are concerned make a point of supporting other local businesses rather than the big stores on the big island (thinking in particular of the mega-pokie-owning one with a name that begins with 'W').
Grant Lewis
June 27th 2012
Anna, I notice you have posted a comment like this earlier. We pride ourselves in Providence V serving our local market and being an attractive feature as the region's only tallship.
We do apologise if you weren't able to get through to us. We have always got 'mates' rates for locals and have seen many landmarks for local residents egs 50th birthdays, kids parties, hens nights. We would like to offer you to contact us for half price for you and your friends. You've probably highlighted one of the issues of trying to run a business as a small operator - that is trying to be everywhere at once.

On that topic big operators have backup. They also bring other issues. For example, do locals want to see up to 110 people snorkelling or lying on the beach at Radical or Florence Bay on a regular basis and a large vessel moored within sight on the horizon? Not to mention environmental damage caused by this potentially massive influx of people. These people may not visit the island, nor will they necessarily be taking up other tourism product on the island. They may well simply board a ferry in Townsville, ride around the island and return to Townsville with no local businesses benefitting . We buy local, employ locals and support local businesses. This is not a local endeavour.
July 2nd 2012
That would explain why they no longer advertise local tours on board the ferries, or local events. Surely therre has to be something to be done to prevent these big corporations taking over! No Chas, for once I am disagreeing with you here! The locals need to be able to keep THEIR businesses operating and Sealink DO NOT need the money! It is the little guy who looks after the place and what happens to their families when they no longer have an income because some freaking big company walks all over them?? As a community we need to stand up against these bullies and regain composure. I also notice when, as a local, visitors ask directions in my company, the Sealink staff now try to take over as if they are the ONLY source of information. This is a new attitude and sad that we have to be dictated to by interstate bully tactics. How many locals are secretly involved in assisting them?
June 27th 2012
its about sticking up for islanders and Sealink should explain what they want to do. If it really was something new and wasnt hitting the little guys then great but when youve got a booking office each end and commercials on board whos gonna know about anybody else.
George Hirst
June 27th 2012
Correction: I wish to correct part of the above story. I have, since publishing the above story, removed quoted statements attributed to Lindsay Simpson which were in error. I sincerely apologise to Lindsay for this misunderstanding.
George Hirst, Editor.
June 27th 2012
(((((On that topic big operators have backup. They also bring other issues. For example, do locals want to see up to 110 people snorkelling or lying on the beach at Radical or Florence Bay on a regular basis and a large vessel moored within sight on the horizon? Not to mention environmental damage caused by this potentially massive influx of people)))))

this is the reason why the island has gone down hill b cause the locals are rude and do not want the tourists here. but than complain when their businesses go under. you cant have it both ways..
June 27th 2012
magneticmd, it is likely that the ferry company is looking for work for a particular vessel (and crew) that is only available on certain days or for a certain amount of time -perhaps the vessel that does the Palm Island ferry service. So they wouldn't actually be starting something from scratch with completely new equipment.
If reef trips weren't viable then, they probably aren't viable now - Palm Island being about 50kms away would constitute a "reef trip". The distance is important, very important. Fickle, fragile travelers, slightly grey or windy weather and the boat is empty. Magnetic Island's status as the most accessible inhabited island in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is a valuable asset. Sealink has an opportunity to promote Magnetic Island like no one else and to benefit most from that promotion.
If a round-Island-tour called in at Nelly Bay before and after it could easily bring new business to the Island's tourism sector. No doubt Sealink will suck it and see. Good luck to them.
Paul S
June 27th 2012
On the money there ella.
Alan Patterson
June 28th 2012
Dear Editor
1. I think if people are making criticisms they should give their full names.
2. Ella, your comment is a bit general but not all locals are rude & not wanting tourists here. Are you a resident? My experience as a business owner is most of us are working very hard to give a good Island impression or experience.
3. I am not buying into the Sealink issue so much but would like to highlight Wendy Tubman's comment about supporting local businesses & trade. Maybe this could be followed up more but I understand the context of this article & relevance is about tour operators.
George Hirst
June 28th 2012
Alan, Your point regarding people not giving their names comes up quite a bit on internet forums. Some think it a coward's castle thing to go anon while others may have good reason to remain anon if they think they could suffer from disclosure. I'm inclined towards the latter because I want to see as many points of view as possible and people are easily intimidated.

However, I moderate every comment before it goes up. My main concerns are that the comments not be racist, sexist, offensive or libellous. This said, I think it's good to have lively and even heated discussion but some people take offence more easily than others.

I personally think that, for instance, magneticmd's last par was unnecessary and smelled of a grudge but I allowed it because Grant is making strong statements in a public forum. I also expect others reading such lines may well see that level of criticism the way I did.

What is best, ultimately, is just to see as many people caring enough to write as possible.

George Hirst, Ed.
Louise Byron
June 28th 2012
Dear Sir; with regards to the remarks made about the M V Providence service, My husband and I went on them with a chum from the UK last November, and while the trip was OK, their webpage displays lunch consisting of large prawns (we got small servings of quiche) and boasts about a boom net for use of its passengers (no boom net used on our trip), so I am not surprised that their passenger numbers are falling. As for Sea Link providing some kind of tourist experience around Maggie, good luck to them, if it employs some locals. Any jobs for the Maggie residents must be a good thing?
June 28th 2012
Thankyou Providence, but as this was a one off when we had friends visit I won't be taking you up on your offer
island girl
July 2nd 2012
Perhaps Sealink should look at the viability of whale watching tours during the 3 months they are in our waters - the weather at this time is always great - around the island tours/snorkeling surely wouldn't be weather viable year round - just a thought....
July 2nd 2012
Barb, whose post somehow got slipped in way back up the top, raises the spectre of the big bad ogre with interstate bully tactics. Next time you are at the Sealink terminal in Town look outside at the advertising posters lined up in the most prominent position along the front of the building next to the main entrance (Providence features). Look inside at the travel desks and various other facilities that are used to promote Island-based businesses. I can't remember a time when local businesses have been better served at that frontline position. How can anyone argue, realistically, that the ferry company, or any business for that matter, "DO NOT need the money"? It is the basis of our economy that every business needs the money and Sealink (let alone the barge company - based in devilish, mercenary Brisbane!) is the most fundamental and essential business serving Magnetic Island. Our lived experience has been that poorly managed transport businesses (including ferries) go broke and then we really face the music. There is no evidence presented here that a tourism initiative by Sealink will negatively impact any or all other Island businesses. If their business case passes their economic hard-heads then maybe it will suit Magnetic Island's situation as well. It's their gamble - shouldn't they be encouraged to give it a go?
Warren Ambrose
July 5th 2012
SIMPLE QUESTION: Does this company receive Government grants as a TRANSPORT operator and proposes to use its muscle to conduct TOURS?
July 5th 2012
Warren, this is Queensland under the new NO-CAN-DO government. No one gets a "government grant".

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