THE world’s elite are cutting short their Queensland holidays because their chartered super yachts cannot access beaches and reef touted on tourism websites.
The Crown Prince of Dubai and Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani, who paid more than $100,000 a week to charter the yachts, were among those prematurely cancelling visits.
One yacht owner has threatened to move his boat to Europe to avoid being regulated like a cruise ship.
Boats over 35m have limited mooring on the Great Barrier Reef and in the Whitsundays. Other countries regulate mooring according to weight, allowing greater flexibility for vessels under 500 tonnes.
Three weeks ago, Mr Armani told the captain of the 41m Seafaris he wanted to visit Tongue Point in the Whitsundays after seeing it on the Queensland Tourism website.
But the Seafaris could not get a state landing permit and Mr Armani abandoned his eight-day holiday after three days. He told the crew he was going to the Maldives where he could walk on a beach.
“It is embarrassing. These are the sort of people I thought we were trying to attract,” Seafaris captain Duncan Smith said.
“For someone to leave early on a charter is really unheard of unless there are mechanical problems.
“There really should be greater customising of access.”
The same thing happened when the Prince of Dubai was visiting the reef on the Seafaris and learned of all the places he was restricted from seeing.
Seafaris owner Jeff McCloy, who is considering shifting the boat to Europe, said millions of dollars were at risk because of regulations that “don’t have common sense”.
“We are just the kind of business that tourism agencies should be promoting – high yield and low impact – but we are being treated like we’re a nuisance,” he said.
Mr McCloy said neither the Seafaris, which weighs under 300 tonnes and anchors in 20m, nor its passengers created an environmental threat to the reef.
The super yacht industry was booming and the boats had easier access in the US and Europe, which were clamouring for their business, Mr McCloy said.
A Government spokesman said proposals to give super yachts greater access to the reef were being considered, but larger boats shouldn’t get preferential treatment.