Chinese visitors dispersed beyond Cairns during the 2018 Chinese New Year with operators reporting many independent travellers were supporting their businesses.
Some operators reported that they had 40% independent Chinese travellers, which is much higher than the 30% anticipated by earlier research, while many were experiencing increases in Chinese travellers of up to 13% from the previous New Year. Car rental companies reported that more Chinese rented cars this year to explore our region further.
The new China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines flights from the mainland, and additional charter flights by Hong Kong Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, boosted international airport passenger figures at Cairns Airport by 21% to 60,910 in February.
There were 305,200 domestic passengers, an increase of 9% compared to last February, which also reflected the timing of Chinese New Year. More than 80% of international visitors to Cairns arrive and/or depart on domestic flights. New flights, larger aircraft and fewer empty seats contributed to a record 5.3 million passengers for Cairns Airport over the past 12 months. View Cairns Airport stats here.
January was also busy with the direct flights from China delivering 4% growth in international passenger numbers with 65,280 people arriving. Charter flights from Seoul and an increase in SilkAir flights from Singapore to five per week, also contributed to the growth.
During Chinese New Year, accommodation in the city was close to capacity, especially at the five-star hotels, with a number of apartments and mid-range hotels also reporting strong Chinese figures. Across the Cairns area there was 86.1% occupancy, up 4.6% from the previous February, while Tropical North Queensland was up 5.6% to 68.6%.
Palm Cove showed the greatest increase with a 19.3% boost to occupancy bringing it to 53.1%. This was supported by anecdotal evidence that the northern beaches were popular with independent Chinese travellers. The Palms at Palm Cove had a family stay 10 days, much longer than the average Chinese length of stay of 3.4 nights.
Port Douglas had 35.1% occupancy, an increase of 4.3%. The revenue per available room also grew across the region, up 17.9% to $106 a night. Businesses that installed online payment solutions in time for the New Year said they had increased sales with customers actively seeking to shop, dine and tour using online payment solutions.
Following Chinese New Year, TTNQ hosted a successful China inbound agent training workshop which provided opportunities for operators to train both frontline staff and hold one-on-one discussions with product managers. There were 20 operators and 20 agents, plus Tourism and Events Queensland and Tourism Australia attending the event. China Southern Airlines presented to the group.
In addition, more than 40 Chinese media and Premier Aussie Trade specialists have toured the region over the past month visiting Cairns, Great Barrier Reef, Mission Beach, Kuranda, Atherton Tablelands, Port Douglas, Mossman, Chillagoe, Undara and Palm Cove. This included China Southern media familiarisations and China Key opinion Leaders familiarisations.
Direct flights from China have delivered the busy Chinese New Year we anticipated, and we will continue to work in this market with our partners to increase these services and grow Chinese visitation and encourage dispersal further throughout Tropical North Queensland.
Chief Executive Officer