Fewer overseas visitors
IT’S official - there are dramatically fewer overseas visitors arriving in the region and they are spending less and staying fewer nights, according to new data.
Figures in the International and National Visitor Surveys compiled by Tourism Research Australia show the number of international arrivals at Cairns Airport was 672,000 with an average stay of 8.9 nights in the year ending September 2010.
While slightly more than last year (667,000), it was nowhere near the 852,000 overseas visitors for the corresponding period in 2006.
To make matters worse, only 1.366 million domestic travellers arrived at Cairns Airport for an average of 5.7 nights - 13 per cent less than the 1,578,000 arrivals but exactly the same length of stay.
Most alarming for Port Douglas and Daintree is the downturn in key markets with only 6000 arrivals from the United States (down 38 per cent), United Kingdom 11,000 (down 28 per cent), Germany 3000 (down 20 per cent), France 1000 ( down 11 per cent), Denmark 1000 (down 30 per cent), while 97,000 Japanese arrived (down 2 per cent).
International visitor expenditure in the region slumped 13 per cent to $797 million, while domestic visitors spent 7 per cent less than the previous year.
Despite the gloomy figures, Port Douglas Daintree Tourism executive officer Doug Ryan said New Zealand continued to offer most promise with 19,000 arrivals, up 33 per cent.
With a third carrier, Jetstar, set to offer new flights from Auckland to Cairns in April, it would be a key market moving forward. In particular, negotiations would continue trying to secure an important, additional direct link to Christchurch.
Meanwhile, the arrival of 11,000 visitors from China (up 52 per cent) was unlikely to affect Port Douglas or the Daintree as most stayed in Cairns for a maximum of two nights for Chinese new year and returned home on charter flights.
“Japan only accounts for about 6 per cent of our total market whereas Western Europe and the US are totally dominant for us. We have suffered in the UK but in the US, we’ve probably held our own, year on year, for the past three years,” Mr Ryan said.
“New Zealand dropped but it is looking good again for us.”
Mr Ryan was critical of the limited scope of the visitor surveys but agreed it did accurately reflect the difficulty experienced by local operators, accommodation houses and others in the tourism industry.
“The problem is the data sample is so small and not specific to sub regions such as Port Douglas. It gives arrivals to Cairns Airport but how many turn left and how many turn right?” Mr Ryan said.
“It is like trying to determine the number of people who visit the Sunshine Coast by reading arrivals at Brisbane Airport - these figures just don’t give the full picture.
“But that said, it has undeniably been very, very tough and it is probably going to remain that way between now and at least April.”