Visitors to Cairns can't get enough of reef
REEF operators are enjoying an unusually busy start to the year, as the tail end of the traditional high season continues to wag.
Trips to the Great Barrier Reef are being booked out days in advance, defying normal January trends, courtesy of a strong domestic market.
Quicksilver Group managing director Tony Baker said it had been the busiest January period in years.
"Normally the first week in January traditionally starts to see numbers slow down, but it's certainly been a lot busier than last year," he said.
"In many cases the vessels have been filling up the night before."
Ocean Spirit sales and marketing manager Nikki Giumelli agreed, with most tours heading out to the Reef at least three-quarters full.
"The phones were ringing non-stop on Christmas Day and New Year's Day days when we normally wouldn't think it would be super busy," she said.
"It goes up and down, but we've had healthy numbers."
Peter Wright, owner of Port Douglas-based Poseidon Cruises, said sunny weather and good conditions had also helped to attract visitors to the outer reef.
"The south-easterlies have continued longer than usual, so there have been very good sea conditions," he said.
"We're getting a good cross-section of people. There's quite a substantial number of domestic visitors, but also a lot of Europeans and Americans."
Tourism Tropical North Queensland boss Rob Giason said the number of Australians holidaying in the Far North had helped extend the tourist season into January.
"Generally speaking, we've seen good traffic and the domestic market has been strong," he said.
"There's a bit more activity around and there has been a good pick-up on people going out to the Reef."
Meanwhile, an Italian cruise ship carrying about 1400 passengers will arrive in Cairns on Sunday, providing another boost to the tourism industry.
The Costa neoRomantica is due to arrive at the Port of Cairns at 8am, with passengers spending the day exploring the city before leaving at midnight.
It will be the first cruise ship to visit Cairns this year, with nine more cruise ships scheduled to visit the region in the next two months.
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Contented tourists: Viviana Urtubia and Christian Lopez from Chile are all smiles at the Cairns marina after enjoying a day out on the Reef. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS