Cairns makes the most of Sydney’s woes

Last week, I spent a fair bit of time on damage limitation after a tip-off from Rick Schindler (the real one) that the Daily Telegraph was about to publish a knocking story alleging backpackers were fouling Sydney pavements while trying to sell their vehicles on the streets.  

It’s a great story for a slow news day – foreigners ruining the environment, outraged local residents and ineffective council officials unable to stop the carnage.

Sadly, the benefits backpackers bring to the local economy and the fact BOA NSW is working with the relevant authorities to resolve the issue didn’t make it into the story – something I must take responsibility for as BOA’s media and communications representative.

Sometimes, though, you just have to sit back and applaud a public relations triumph when you see one – so congratulations must go to Backpacking Queensland chair Brett Claxton for managing his local media much better than I did last week.

Because far from carrying a knocking story, the Cairns Post followed up with an article stressing how welcome backpackers are in the region, despite the occasional “toilet-related mishap”.

The piece goes on to state: “Sydney residents and business owners were reportedly up in arms this week over budget travellers – mainly from Europe – making themselves at home on footpaths and allegedly using gutters as toilets. Many of the backpackers are forced to wait in Sydney until they can sell their vans, in order to pay for the next stage of their travel.”

But despite the fact travellers at the end of their east coast adventure can also be found camped along the Esplanade in Cairns, desperate to make a sale, the Post strikes an altogether more positive tone, with Claxton describing them as the “lifeblood of Queensland’s tourism industry”. He adds: “They do take the jobs that no one else wants to do and there’s always someone contributing to our economy in some way, so we welcome them here in Cairns for sure.”

Hats off to you Brett on a job well done.

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