Fig­ures show full ex­tent of tourism slump in Dou­glas

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER

REV­ENUE from ac­com­mo­da­tion in Port Dou­glas has dropped by more than 20 per cent in just six years due to an alarm­ing fall in vis­i­tor nights and the slash­ing of room rates.

Fig­ures from the Aus­tralian Bureau of Statis­tics show vis­i­tor nights in Port Dou­glas have dropped from 1,114,285 in 2004 to 938,928 this fi­nan­cial year, a drop of 16 per cent.

Over the same pe­riod, ac­com­mo­da­tion tak­ings have plum­meted from $85.455 mil­lion to $67.943 mil­lion, with the av­er­age nightly room rate cut by al­most 10 per cent from $174 to $158.

In his an­nual re­port to mem­bers this week, Port Dou­glas Cham­ber of Com­merce pres­i­dent Ken Dobbs said busi­nesses in the tourist town were still strug­gling to over­come the ef­fects of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Mr Dobbs said “in­creased in­ter­est rates and the ex­change rate for the Aus­tralian dol­lar” had com­pli­cated mat­ters for tourism and re­lated nesses even fur­ther.

“Since 2004 there has been a steady de­cline in vis­i­tor nights, ac­com­mo­da­tion tak­ings and the nightly rate for ac­com­mo­da­tion,” Mr Dobbs said.

“The ac­com­mo­da­tion fig­ures di­rectly im­pact the re­tail, res­tau­rant and tour op­er­a­tor sec­tors.

“Al­though there are no of­fi­cial fig­ures, the ev­i­dence is that these sec­tors are un­der se­vere pres­sure.

“The real es­tate sales and in­vest­ment sec­tors mir­ror these dif­fi­cul­ties.”

Mr Dobbs said Port Dou­glas had main­tained mar­ket share within a shrink­ing tourism sec­tor which had been can­ni­balised by the ris­ing Aus­tralian dol­lar.

“Our mar­ket share has not de­clined but the size of the pie has,” he said.

“There is now a net loss on tourism in Aus­tralia, with more Aus­tralians hol­i­day­ing over­seas than over­seas res­i­dents hol­i­day­ing in Aus­tralia.”

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Mr Dobbs said he re­mained hope­ful the tourism mar­ket had hit bot­tom and was start­ing to show green shoots.

“Next year we should see some growth but, as can be seen, we need con­sis­tent strong growth just to get back to 2004 lev­els.”

The only thing to do, Mr Dobbs said, was to fo­cus on the ar­eas where lo­cal ef­forts could make a dif­fer­ence.

“There are a lot of fun­da­men­tal things we can’t in­flu­ence,” he said.

“We can’t change the weather, re­duce the ex­change rate, re­move the stingers or force peo­ple to hol­i­day in Port Dou­glas.

“We can’t com­pete on price with over­seas desti­na­tions, not when the dol­lar is this strong, so we have to fo­cus on mak­ing sure the des­ti­na­tion presents well and en­sur­ing the qual­ity of our prod­uct.”

Car­ni­vale will re­main a ma­jor fo­cus of the Cham­ber’s busi­ness sup­port ef­forts in 2011, along with ef­forts to re­vi­talise the water­front and es­planade.

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