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12 November, 2021

Visitor numbers highlight need for open borders

DESPITE ongoing COVID-19 related restrictions, domestic visitation to Cairns increased in the past financial year (2020/21), reinforcing the importance of reopening borders for the recovery of the local tourism industry.

A report tabled at Council today outlined the activities and performance of Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) to June 2021. 

It revealed a $12.1% increase in domestic visitor expenditure in TNQ from $2.09 billion in 2019-20 to $2.34 billion in 2020-21, which was in contrast to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, which all recorded decreases in domestic visitor expenditure during the same period. 

It could have been even better news for the region, with domestic travel to Cairns reaching record levels in the lead up to June with eased travel restrictions, but then it collapsed post June with lockdowns in the key interstate markets of NSW and Victoria. 

However, total (domestic and international) visitor expenditure in TNQ decreased 16.6% in the past financial year, from $2.82 billion to $2.35 billion, and the total number of visitors decreased 17.6% from 2.34 million to 1.93 million with travel restrictions preventing inbound international visitation the primary driver. 

The number of international visitors to Cairns decreased 99.6%, from 568,000 in 2019/20 to just to 2,000 in 2020/21. 

In positive news, the report noted that Cairns was the most Googled destination in Queensland and the third most in Australia behind Sydney and Melbourne. 

The destination website reached over one million unique users and generated $113 million in direct sales, and Cairns was named the Wotif Aussie Town of the Year, earning $4.5 million in publicity. 

During the 2020/21 financial year, TTNQ advocacy helped secure more than $40 million in one-off marketing, event and operator support funding. Council provided TTNQ with funding of $2.4 million in the 2020/21 financial year as well as an additional $75,000 to secure an AFL premiership game. 

TTNQ was also provided an additional $60,000 to undertake independent economic analysis on the impacts of COVID-19 on visitor expenditure and employment levels.

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