The regional events capital of Australia
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Last month brought a wake-up call to Aussie tourism planners everywhere when the results of a recent British survey of travelling intentions in 2022 was released revealing that travellers from Britain are in no hurry to visit Bondi or trek the Great Ocean Road any time soon, with survey respondents ranking Australia last among the destinations they planned to visit, behind North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe.
Tourism Australia has taken out advertising space on the giant digital billboard in Piccadilly Circus in central London. The ad features a kangaroo standing on a golden-sand beach at Crowdy Bay National Park in NSW alongside the slogan “Come and say G’day”. How quaint.
Further, 70 per cent of all surveyed said they had no intention of, and would not consider, travelling to Australia next year either, with cost and distance proving the biggest deterrents – 63 per cent said it was too expensive. Australia was last on their list. Instead, 78 per cent of those heading abroad intended to go to Europe, 15 per cent to North America, 12 per cent to Asia and 10 per cent to Africa.
With the exception of visiting friends and relatives, this result might be replicated throughout Europe and in the USA and as we well know our Asian markets are already skittish. We also know international visitors accounted for 42 per cent of our FNQ regional tourism receipts, so the challenge here will be maximising the opportunities to grab more of the domestic market in a climate where every town and region is marketing everything from cottage cheese to a traditional heritage registered 100 YO outdoor dunny at giveaway prices. There will be no “tourism snapback” as is often touted, but rather success will come to those who aggressively innovate and seek out new opportunities in existing markets closer to home.
Our geography allows us to position Cairns as the events capital of regional Australia.
Melbourne headed down a similar path years ago with a vision to establish the city as the sporting events capital of the world alongside the mantra of being the most livable city in Australia and was recognised for its livability worldwide. It worked and there is no reason a similar marketing campaign would not work here but will require some innovation and additional facilities. And here is a small sample of why:
•Cairns has an established international profile along with an international airport;
•We are the recognised gateway to the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest;
•We have established cultural and sporting events now… think Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, GBR Ironman, FNQ Targa and Savannah in The Round for starters;
•Regionally we have excellent under-utilised stock of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets; and
•We have an excellent array of professionally operated tourism offerings along with a long established and excellent Reef Hotel Casino with the reef at our doorstep.
Cairns is recognised as “a city in a garden” and it occurs to me it’s time now to think and act more broadly to save the decimated regional tourism industry. Our time has come to market ourselves uniquely as Australia’s Regional Events Capital and the missing piece of the jigsaw is the Barlow Park rectangular stadium and sports precinct to fill the immediate gap.