Far North Queensland tourism operators are meeting with Tourism Minister Kate Jones today to address declining tourism numbers and an uncertain future for the local industry.
Speaking to the Cairns Post, Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators executive director Col McKenzie said there needed to be a change in the messaging around the region.
“Cairns did exceptionally well when it was the ‘Gateway to the Barrier Reef’,” he said.
“We changed our message to Tropical North Queensland (and) all these other things, and they just haven’t resonated.”
He also said the negative publicity around the health of the Great Barrier Reef had been an issue.
“You talk to the tourists and people are coming out to see it ‘while they still can’,” he said. “If you have that kind of message, if that’s how it’s perceived overseas, it’s going to be short-lived.”
Skyrail managing director Ken Chapman echoed the sentiment, saying Tourism and Events Queensland and Tourism Australia had shifted their focus from destination marketing to experiences.
“The very big problem that we are facing is the untrue bad press about the Great Barrier Reef,” he told the Cairns Post.
“We’ve even got travel shows saying half the Great Barrier Reef is dead, which is just untrue.
“The response from Tourism and Events Queensland and Tourism Australia was really to stop marketing Cairns and the Whitsundays so that has compounded the problem hugely.”
Quicksilver managing director Tony Baker said there needs to be more emphasis placed on the reef’s recovery.
“And this focus on all of Queensland and experience-based activity as opposed to a destination focus does not appear to be working for us at all,” he said.
However, TEQ group executive corporate affairs Megan Saunders said Tropical North Queensland is represented in about 40 per cent of the market voice in both its domestic and international activity despite having just over 14 per cent of total overnight visitor expenditure in the state.
“We recognise the importance of Tropical North Queensland as a tourism destination in our marketing approach and invest heavily in promoting the region,” she said.
“Promoting the world-class experiences on offer in Cairns and Tropical North Queensland is the most effective way to convince today’s traveller to book a holiday to the region.”
Sunlover Reef Cruises general manager Sharon Sheldrake said the issue needs a collaborative approach.
“There’s no one solution from any tour company or government body that will bring growth,” she said.
“It requires all of us to work together to give Tourism Tropical North Queensland and everyone else everything they can to promote Cairns as a destination.”