Far North Queensland Leading The Way In Regional Travel Recovery
Traditionally Queensland’s Far North has been a tourism hot spot, with the region worth a whopping $2.5 billion annually. The draw of sites such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands and the World Heritage Rainforests bring a flock of tourists each year, however the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions have devastated the area.
The Far North reportedly lost more than $200 million in bookings when the pandemic took hold of Australia in March. The extent of the economic impact to the region is still unknown, as interstate and international travel restrictions continue to constrain the tourism destinations potential earnings.
However, as restrictions begin to ease intrastate travel is becoming a popular choice for those who would have otherwise spent their holiday funds on an international trip. With the limitations on venues such as hotels, restaurants and pubs being lifted in the sunshine state, and tourism operators able to conduct group activities once again, Far North Queensland is set to be one of the first regions to recover.
Colliers research found that Cairns saw a spike in hotel bookings in June, an indicator that Queensland locals are eager to explore their states regional destinations. The government is throwing their weight being the region as well, dishing out an $11.3 million support plan titled the ‘Far North Queensland Tourism Industry Economic Recovery Package’.
The package aims to bolster the events industry, support commercial tourism operators, accommodation providers and food & beverage outlets. The funds will also be utilised to kickstart the construction of four pending infrastructure projects which are set to enhance the regions offerings.
As well as this overarching package, there are several smaller government support and rebate schemes put in place to help specific service providers get up and running again. The COVID-19 Marine Tourism Rebate will provide $2 million in support to marine based tourism operators in the North Queensland region, with a focus on those located in Douglas and Whitsunday. In this same space, whale watching tour operators will have their commercial fee waived for the 2020 season.
Whilst much of the support is centred on helping the business owners located within Far North Queensland, the state government has kept in mind that getting tourists to the regional centre is an important part of the destination’s recovery. The Queensland government will be investing $5 million in a plan to create new routes to 15 regional airports across the state. In addition to this, Jetstar will be upping the number of fights from the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast to Cairns in an effort to encourage local travel.
Far North Queensland is not unique in this situation either, with other regional destinations such as Darwin are also seeing a spike in interest from Australian travelers. Colliers recent studies have led them to state that Australia’s tourism industry will rebound, and quickly, with the domestic leisure segment leading the way.