Tourist tidal wave as passenger numbers surge
The stage is set for a tourism revival with flights from southern states pouring into Queensland at almost five times the frequency of last month when borders were closed.
Interstate arrivals have flooded Queensland airports since the state's borders reopened, with Gold Coast airport tripling its weekly flights in just two weeks.
Brisbane airport expects some routes to increase ten-fold as Christmas approaches, with the airport expecting 30,000 daily travellers over the festive season - doubling the passenger count of recent weeks.
Brisbane Airport data shows that flights between Brisbane and Sydney have already tripled in frequency since state borders reopened, with an average of 15 daily flights this week compared to five per day in the last week of November.
In that same time, flights between Brisbane and Melbourne have quadrupled increasing from two flights per day in late-November, to eight flights each day this week.
Brisbane airport predicts the Melbourne route will become ten times more frequent - increasing to 20 flights per day - in the lead up to Christmas, while flights between Brisbane and Sydney are also expected to increase to 26 per day.
Sunshine Coast airport - which "effectively closed" during the pandemic - is now operating 48 weekly flights, almost four times more than when borders were closed.
"Sydney and Melbourne make up around 90 per cent of our passenger numbers," Sunshine Coast Airport head of corporate relations, Ayllie White said.
Ms White said the addition of another daily Qantas service from Melbourne next week would provide a further boost for local businesses.
"Every aircraft arriving into the Sunshine Coast Airport delivers $50,000 tourism spend directly into the region."
Cairns airport recorded its busiest day since before the pandemic with 6,000 passengers passing through the terminal last Friday - a 14 per cent increase from the week before.
"Last week we had over 37,000 passengers through the terminal and this week that number is expected to be around 50,000," an airport spokeswoman said.
Virgin has forecast a return to 60 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic capacity by January with flights between Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria contributing largely to that growth.
Qantas expects to return to 70 per cent of its domestic capacity by Christmas, with more than 1,200 Qantas and Jetstar employees returning to work since borders reopened.
Brisbane airport is currently operating at 60 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity (890 weekly flights), with that number expected to increase to 70 per cent - or 1000, weekly flights, in January.
There are 134 return flights scheduled at Gold Coast airport this week - 32 per cent of normal - compared to 94 last week and 34 in the last week of border closures.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said the summer season offered Queensland tourism operators a chance to profit off "pent-up demand".
"Normally 5 million Australians would take their holidays overseas … that opens up a whole new market if you'd like to substitute that overseas holiday with a Queensland holiday," he said.
The Gold Coast and Brisbane are currently Australia's two most popular summer tourism destination, according to Wotif Managing Director Daniel Finch.
On the Gold Coast the QT hotel "has seen booking demand explode since the announcement of borders reopening", a spokeswoman confirmed.
"We're even busier than last year … it's a welcome shot in the arm for the local tourism sector who've been doing it tough."
Originally published as Tourist tidal wave as passenger numbers surge