Tourism Recovery Plan to benefit Cairns

The announcement of the 800,000 discounted flights to hard hit leisure destinations like Cairns is a good initiative.

The measure stimulates domestic leisure travel which had already seen a bump due to optimism around the vaccination roll out. This broad brush, market driven approach will provide the greatest benefit to the key aviation and hospitality sectors of tourism.

The program also manages to play politics by painting certain state premiers into a corner over border closures.

For some parts of the tourism industry such as the touring or activity sector that was more heavily weighted towards international visitors, nothing short of JobKeeper 3.0 will do.

Large reef tour operators with huge 300 passenger catamarans and hundreds of staff are heavily impacted just as small specialised wildlife tour operators.

The fact is that international visitors behave and spend differently to domestic visitors and the industry in Cairns can only adapt some far to accommodate the domestic market.

The uncomfortable question is should the government continue to subsidize thousands of jobs for what could be several years until we get full tourism back in Cairns?

Our two biggest international markets here were China and the USA. Both are deeply impaired for different reasons.

Cairns and Port Douglas will need to work on better pricing for the domestic market and to better educate visitors about the range of experiences the region offers.

Operators should take the longer view and understand that interstate tourists are far likelier to be repeat visitors and destination ambassadors than internationals who are typically one-off visitors.

Domestic visitors propensity to research, book and pay online eliminates costly middlemen allowing greater discounting possibilities.

Certainly at Sapphire Transfers, we have already noticed a huge uptick in bookings even prior to the discounted flight announcements.