THE Sunshine Coast’s biggest tourism employer, Australia Zoo, has sacked 22 employees.
The Daily understands dozens of other workers have been forced to take unpaid leave and job share.
Zoo management yesterday blamed the job losses on a drop in visitor numbers due to the floods and the global economic crisis.
Only last week Sunshine Coast Destination chief Michael Denton pleaded with industry bosses to do all they could to ride out the tough times. “When the tourism industry catches a cold, the rest of the Coast sneezes,” Mr Denton said.
“If jobs are lost it will have a serious ripple effect. We are urging people to get online, book a holiday to the Sunshine Coast, to Queensland.”
Mr Denton was on leave yesterday but company spokes woman Karen Doane said no amount of crisis management and creative marketing could fully prepare for the disaster aftermath.
“In the wake of massive media attention, the perception has been that the Coast has been flood-affected and that having a holiday here would prove difficult if not impossible,” Ms Doane said.
“Destination feels for any business that has had to make the difficult decision to make staff redundant in order to preserve their long-term sustainability.
“What we can and are doing now is to take affirmative action to reverse the perception that the Coast is not open for business.
“We have campaigns in media, we are in daily contact with international and domestic travel journalists as well as other key industry,” Ms Doane said.
The Australia Zoo sackings equal about 5% of the 450-strong workforce.
It is not the first time the Irwins have cut jobs to keep out of the red. In March, 2009, the zoo announced it would lay off 26 staff and delay expansion plans.
Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin made guest appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show, introducing the talk show queen to a collection of native wildlife.
They, like the rest of the tourism industry, were hoping to experience a surge in bookings.
Tourism contributes about $1.56 billion to the Coast economy each year and directly provides one in every five jobs.
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