Softer year for tourist trade
STIFF competition from cheap overseas travel, a strong snow season and restricted domestic flights mean that hospitality and tourism operators have to “work hard and together”.
This week marks the downhill run for the peak holiday season in Port Douglas – when travellers from NSW and Victoria traditionally travelled north to soak in the tropics while the southern states begin their spring thaw.
But despite a healthy trade, the 2018 season proved slower on the back of two strongly performing September-October seasons in 2016 and 2017.
“It was slightly softer this year,” Tourism Port Douglas’ Tara Bennett said.
“Domestic flight access is getting more difficult and more expensive.”
The spring break is typically seized on by affluent travellers who this year were also tempted by other attractions competing for their dollar.
“It has been a crazy ski season and there is still snow out there,” Ms Bennett said.
“And long haul travel is as cheap as it has ever been.
“Their figures don’t always stack up when it comes to coming to the Far North.” She said Port Douglas hospi- tality and tourism leaders could overcome the combined challenge.
“We have to work hard and together,” she said.
The southern perception of the Far North was not aided by the odd croc beach sighting, including one on Four Mile on Saturday, 300m south of the flags.
“It makes the Australian national media when beaches close on those occasions,” Ms Bennett said. “People want to have beach holidays.”
Despite the challenge, last month Cairns Airport recorded its highest domestic numbers since 2005. More than 399,500 people arrived in August this year, up 2 per cent on August 2017; international passengers were up 3 per cent.
International figures were the best since 2009.
The number of passengers arriving in Cairns specifically to stay in the city has also increased slightly, despite data showing there was little change to visitor numbers in the past 12 months
September also saw welcome news for the Port Douglas tourism industry with Qantas planning to boost capacity on two routes out of Cairns until November 11.
Hamstrung by domestic flights being snapped up by customers transiting through Cairns, interstate and intrastate tourism has been stifled by lack of seats or the high costs associated with huge demand.
Qantas will put the much larger Airbus 330 planes on selected routes between Sydney and Melbourne, mostly on weekends.
Melbourne couple Nina Bekachvili and John Geary enjoying Port Douglas' Four Mile Beach which was voted TripAdvisor's sixth most popular beach in Australia.