Recovery Reaches Milestone

Recovery Reaches Milestone

: (07) 4015 1201
Chief Executive Officer
Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ)

Tropical North Queensland’s recovery reached a major milestone in February with the return of the first post-pandemic flight from China in time for Chinese New Year. China was our largest international market before the pandemic, accounting for one in five international visitor nights and injecting more than $200 million a year into our regional economy.

The additional 20,000 Chinese New Year visitors were anticipated to bring an economic impact of more than $26 million to the region in February. These Chinese travellers landed in Cairns on the direct China Eastern flights from Shanghai and through the domestic terminal after arriving in Australia via Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

The return of international visitors to the region has somewhat softened the blow of the impacts of TC Jasper and the flooding. However, some regions such as Cape Tribulation remain isolated. Since February and March are typically our low season for domestic travellers, seeing more international visitors is vital to our region.

In March, we have the introduction of wide-bodied jets by Singapore Airlines with the additional inbound seats anticipated to deliver $26.5 million in annual visitor expenditure to our regional economy.

The Singapore flights and the new Virgin Australia connection in Haneda are ideal connections for our Northern Hemisphere markets. The North American market delivered 59,000 visitors in the year ending September 2023 and that market will have even greater access when American Airlines begins flying from Dallas to Brisbane in October.

The United Kingdom and Japan delivered 45,000 visitors each, New Zealand 24,000 and Germany 21,000. There is strong interest from our European markets, but numbers have been stifled by seat capacity. The additional Singapore seats will increase capacity from Europe by 50 per cent.

Europeans, and particularly the German market, are essential to our market spread as they are more adventurous and stay longer. Our regional areas benefit as these intrepid travellers tend to disperse further than other markets, ensuring the visitor economy is not just confined to the coastal strip. There are already signs of this with a Mareeba caravan park noting a recent increase in international guests.

International visitors stay longer with an average length of stay of 12 nights compared to the average five nights for domestic visitors.

Importantly, they arrive in our summer and shoulder seasons, bringing year-round stability for the business sector. When the hotels are full the local laundries, florists, bakers, butchers and a diverse range of retailers and wholesalers are busy throughout the year.

The return of access from China was the much-needed tool in the pandemic recovery process, giving the tourism industry renewed optimism that international visitation will help to grow the visitor economy into a $7.5 billion export industry by 2032.

This goal is ambitious, but given the Tropical North Queensland tourism industry’s phenomenal success in building the visitor economy up from $3.5 billion in 2019 to the current record $4.8 billion, we believe it is achievable.

Our small marketing organisation achieved this with well-resourced and well-managed destination marketing made possible by record funding. That funding enabled our local tourism industry to contribute $1.4 billion per annum in tax to the Federal and State governments.

We are entering our final year of additional Federal funding and have charted a course for 4-7 per cent growth in visitor expenditure over the next decade with tactical marketing aiming to increase the number and length of stay of visitors across a range of key markets.

This growth will require an additional 125,000 to 165,000 domestic and international airline seats and an extra 5000 to 10,000 rooms by 2032.

New visitor experiences are essential to drive increased visitor numbers and length of stay and this would require some $5 billion in new infrastructure and investment.

A mix of private and government investment will be needed for this plan to succeed and ultimately we need to secure sustainable destination marketing dollars to ensure this substantial investment will achieve the desired economic success for Tropical North Queensland.