Increase in visitors a boost for Cairns tourism industry's confidence
A 25 per cent jump in the number of visitors to Cairns has given tourism leaders hope the region's $1.8 billion industry is regaining its ''mojo''.
Almost 1.6 million Australians came to the Far North for holidays or business in the year ending March, Tourism Queensland figures show.
Almost one million of these visitors were from within Queensland while more than 600,000 were from interstate.
The combined number of travellers represented a 25 per cent increase compared with the previous 12-month period, when tourism was battered by a summer of natural disasters such as cyclone Yasi.
Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive officer Rob Giason said the surge in visitors was "sensational" and proved the region could again compete with national and foreign destinations.
"It’s quite phenomenal considering the competition we’ve got from Pacific and Asian nations," he said.
"It certainly indicates that we’re in a rebuilding program.
"There’s a long road to go yet and we need these figures to be sustainable but they show we’re getting our mojo back."
For Tasmanian visitor Shane McClenaghan, bringing his extended family to Cairns and exploring the region in a hire car or kayak was an annual treat.
He was confident fellow travellers would start flocking back to the tropical city.
"It just has a relaxed, family atmosphere," Mr McClenaghan said.
"The weather here is No. 1 and it’s laidback. We’re really impressed with what’s here."
Mr Giason said domestic marketing campaigns combined with increased aviation services and events such as the Cairns Airport Adventure Festival helped nudge up the visitor numbers.
Tourism generated about $50 million a week, proving how vital is was to the region’s economy, he said.
Mercure Harbourside general manager Shane Edwards said there had been a noticeable increase in corporate, government and conference visitors.
"Generally, occupancy rates across the market have been steady and I think it’s getting much better," he said.
"From July, it’ll just get better. Most operators are optimistic."
Salthouse Bar manager Olivia White said the waterfront venue had enjoyed a marked rise in the number of Australian tourists, largely because of the lack of a wet season this year.
"This has been the best start to the year we’ve had since we started," she said.
"We’ve had some record weeks."
TTNQ yesterday also announced structural changes, with Reef Hotel Casino CEO Allan Tan and Pinnacle Tourism Marketing director Ron Livingston appointed to the board of directors.
Mr Livingston was appointed Tropical Tablelands/Remote Area zone director, replacing Bram Collins who resigned because of business interests.
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Happy visitors: Claire McClenaghan, 16, Christopher Smith, 5, and Emma McClenaghan, 18, enjoy the relaxed family atmosphere at Muddies playground on the Esplanade. Picture: ANNA ROGERS