The Courier-Mail

Good news in bad dollar Staying home means boost for tourism industry


TOURISM centres such as Cairns will be boom towns within five years as domestic and internatio­nal tourists are lured by an Australian dollar as low as US58 , BIS Shrapnel forecasts.

BIS Shrapnel chief economist Frank Gelber said that after a long period of suffering under a high dollar during the mining boom, tourism along with education, agricultur­e and manufactur­ing were set to stage a strong recovery.

“The mining boom is as dead as a dodo,” Mr Gelber told a Brisbane conference yesterday.

“But rising from the ashes like a phoenix will be industries like tourism.”

Mr Gelber said he expected the Aussie dollar could drop to as low as US58 , spurring not only a surge in internatio­nal tourists but domestic visitors as overseas holidays became more expensive.

The Australian dollar has dropped 24 per cent against the greenback in the past year and is now trading around US70 .

“It is not only going to be good, it is going to be terrific,” Mr Gelber said. “Investing in things like hotels and retail centres in tourism regions will be really strong in the future.

“For 10 years places like Cairns have been flat and when something broke it wasn’t fixed. Hotels were closed down because people were not coming.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Alex de Waal said tourism numbers had increased over the past year, helped by the lower dollar.

Mr de Waal said tourism expenditur­e in the tropical north was expected to climb from $2.8 billion at present to as much as $4.1 billion by 2020.

Big hopes are already being pinned on the planned $8.15 billion Aquis mega-resort near Cairns, while luxury hotel chain Langham has announced it wants to expand to north Queensland.

Hilton Cairns general manager John Lucas said the lower dollar was expected to boost tourist numbers over the next few years but it would be a gradual improvemen­t.

Mr Lucas said there had been substantia­l investment in refurbishm­ent over the past few years by operators.

Ocean Hotels and Sunlover Reef Cruises group general manager Julie Duncan said the Cairns-based business already was seeing an uptick in tourists.

“We see particular growth in middle-class tourists from China and India,” Ms Duncan said. “Australia is seen as a safe place and now they have more to spend because of the lower dollar.”

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