Domestic demand for Cairns & Great Barrier Reef is at an all-time high with more than 60,000 people expected through Cairns Airport this week after a very successful Easter brought 21,000 arrivals our way.
When the Brisbane lockdown was declared right before Easter we all feared the worst for what was predicted to be a bumper holiday period. There were thousands of lost bookings with some properties recording up to 30% cancellations on the first day and a 90% reduction in experience bookings.
However, people continued to pour in through Cairns Airport from the southern states in the days leading up to Easter with 19 flights from Sydney and Melbourne including three wide-bodied jets arriving on Thursday.
Fortunately the airlines were hesitant to cancel flights during the lockdown and as soon as it was lifted we saw travel from the southwest corner resume. Cairns Airport reported a 20% uplift in passengers from the previous week giving the domestic terminal its best numbers since January 2020.
We look forward to welcoming our Kiwi friends with the New Zealand travel bubble. Air New Zealand will have three weekly services from June and Qantas has announced three direct flights to Cairns.
Cairns Airport is also seeing good growth on new routes such as the direct flights to Canberra.
Eager travellers have been booking the half-price flights that went on sale on 1 April with airlines reporting bookings increasing on some routes by a whopping 3200%.
The Cairns Holiday Dollars have been enthusiastically embraced with more than $550,000 in bookings. More than half were spent on Great Barrier Reef experiences and a quarter on nature and wildlife tours with 65% booked by couples and 20% by groups of four.
We have seen a spike in visitation to the destination website and Cairns continues to be the most Googled regional destination in Australia, boding well for forward bookings.
Before Covid struck, domestic expenditure in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef was at record levels with a 6.7% increase to $2.5 billion for the year ending December 2019. Visitation had increased by 9.6% to a record 2.2 million visitors.
Since then we have received targeted marketing funding and have rolled out seasonal campaigns to reposition Cairns & Great Barrier Reef as a year-round domestic destination. Targeting the domestic market for summer travel has never been done by our region before, but it is starting to show success.
While the latest National Visitor Survey figures are still down, they do show 1.4 million visitors bringing in $1.4 billion in expenditure to our region for the year ending March 2021. Not bad, considering the whole nation was in lockdown for two months and the Queensland borders were closed to our two largest domestic markets for a large part of the year.
Cairns & Great Barrier Reef is in the box seat for domestic travel. What we need now is to ensure we have adequate professional staff to deliver first-class service and travellers wanting to do the world-class experiences we are known for.
Our region’s tourism industry has been doing it really tough, but we are seeing the resilience and innovation needed to keep our destination moving forward. We are definitely starting to See Greater and know that our visitors will Leave Greater.
Chief Executive Officer