Softer year for tourist trade

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Pete Martinelli

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.

Pic­ture: GIZELLE GHIDELLA

Mel­bourne cou­ple Nina Bekachvili and John Geary en­joy­ing Port Dou­glas' Four Mile Beach which was voted TripAd­vi­sor's sixth most pop­u­lar beach in Aus­tralia.

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