Port cashes in on party
PORT Douglas has cashed in on Chinese New Year arrivals as resorts, restaurants and tour operators report a bumper start to the season.
The influx of Chinese tourists started in the weeks leading up to the January 31 celebration and only finished this month.
One of the region’s largest reef operators, Quicksilver, experienced booked out tours despite having to halt operations for two days because of a looming cyclone.
Managing director Tony Baker said their fleet of 12 vessels was busy ferrying people to dive and snorkel sites off Cairns and Port Douglas.
‘‘Over recent years the Chinese New Year market has grown from being a traditionally quiet period in Port Douglas to a very busy period for us,’’ he said.
‘‘The shoulder periods (before and after Chinese New Year) have been longer this year and there were a lot more free and independent Chinese visitors.
‘‘Our outer reef products were full over the Chinese New Year period.’’
A spokeswoman for Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree said 2014 appeared to be the busiest Chinese New Year yet.
‘‘We did not gather any statistics on visitation over Chinese New Year however anecdotally there appeared to be more Chinese visitors in the region than previous years,’’ she said. QT Resort general manager Steven Oakley agreed there was a certain buzz in the beachside town.
‘‘We experienced a longer stay range which in reality is indicative of the rising numbers of Chinese visitors,’’ he said.
‘‘The Chinese New Year generally arrives in what is deemed the lower season for the region where most operators experience reduced occupancy (so) Chinese New Year greatly assisted our occupancy and has proven to be a dramatic increase year on year.’’
Salsa Bar and Grill restaurant manager Renae Reddrop said menus had been translated into Mandarin to attract Chinese diners.
‘‘ We’ve had really great numbers of Chinese coming through,’’ the Port Douglas staffer said. ‘‘We are still full every night and we were getting about 20 per cent (of diners) from China for both lunch and dinner.’’
Ms Reddrop said many tourists she had been talking to were staying in the country for up to four weeks.
‘‘They had the Great Barrier Reef as a destination, Sydney and Ayers Rock so they were here to check out the main spots in Australia.’’
According to a JCU tourism report, the average spend for a family holidaying in Port Douglas and Daintree is almost $4000. Last year, the majority of visitors travelled from Europe and the United Kingdom followed by the US, Pacific nations and Asia.