Far Northern tourism’s cause for optimism

DEMOGRAPHER Bernard Salt has given cause for long-term optimism in the Cairns tourism industry despite China's temporary exodus from the scene.

Operators across the Far North are preparing for travel bans to be gradually lifted in stages, starting regionally, then intrastate, interstate and across international lines.

Demographer Bernard Salt
Demographer Bernard Salt

It appears highly unlikely borders with China will reopen anytime soon and the tourism industry is already starting to pivot business models to survive in this new reality.

Mr Salt said talk of a "trans-Tasman bubble" rekindling travel between New Zealand and Australia should give rise to hope in the Far North.

"It's logical that an Australia-New Zealand relationship is opened up," he said.

"Over the next month or so we could see flights open between the two countries and in due course that bubble will be extended.

"Those extensions may well be to other 'safe' places like Taiwan, maybe Hong Kong, and maybe Singapore if it gets its current outbreak under control.

"I think every country is fairly commercially focused and sees the benefit of travel, as long as there is not a disbenefit like the threat of an outbreak."

Mr Salt believed the Far North Queensland tourism industry's current issues were not long-term, but the problem was how to survive in the here and now.

It is a quandary facing most operators and one the China-reliant KUR-Cow Farm in Kuranda's Myola Valley is feeling with absolute acuteness.

The rural-experience attraction was part of the former KUR-World tourism mega-development which has failed to materialise.

The Far Northern tourist industry has cause to be optimistic despite the absence of the Chinese market. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
The Far Northern tourist industry has cause to be optimistic despite the absence of the Chinese market. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Its owners, Reever & Ocean Pty Ltd, have just received temporary six-month permission from Mareeba Shire Council to switch from a "tourism attraction" to a "nature-based attraction". The application states the business "which to date, has been heavily reliant on Chinese tourists" has been dramatically affected by the coronavirus shutdown.

The new approval will allow KUR-Cow to bring in up to 70 free and independent travellers from Cairns and elsewhere per day to use the site for heritage tours, nature-watching, environmental education and other practices.

Mr Salt said there was merit in businesses shifting focus to the domestic market as borders reopened - especially to wealthy southerners now wary of leaving Australia.

"The well-to-do of Melbourne's eastern suburbs and Sydney's eastern suburbs will be looking to winter up north," he said.

"It could provide an opportunity for FNQ to say you don't have to go to Phuket or Paris, you can go to Port Douglas or the northern beaches of Cairns.

"One thing to come out of all of this is how well we've managed everything - and I think we need to sell that."

Originally published as Far Northern tourism's cause for optimism

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