The first interstate holiday visitors in 15 weeks will arrive in Cairns today (Friday) to a tropical welcome from the region’s tourism industry and Cairns Airport.
More than 300 visitors from New South Wales will arrive from Sydney within the first hour of Queensland opening its borders.
Jetstar flight JQ952 will arrive in Cairns at 12.10pm with 177 passengers and Qantas flight QF922 arrives at 12.40pm with 160 passengers.
Water cannons will spray the first jet and passengers will emerge in the Arrivals Hall through a Welcome Arch of rainforest plants and tropical flowers to a sign saying Welcome New South Wales.
Indigenous performers, local animal mascots, a koala and a Kombi van will add to the festivities as visitors collect their bags and set off to explore the reef, rainforest and outback of the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region.
Standing one large cassowary apart, Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Olsen and Cairns Airport CEO Norris Carter will greet the guests alongside members of the tourism industry.
Mr Olsen said the first interstate flight was a significant step in the pathway to recovery for the Cairns region which generated $3.5 billion into the regional economy in the 12 months before borders closed.
Mr Carter said 20,000 passengers would travel through the terminal this week – a tenfold increase in passenger numbers since early June.
“Today is an important day for our industry’s recovery. Every traveller is important not only to the airlines that fly them here, but to all the businesses across the airport and the wider tourism community,” he said.
Mr Olsen said COVID had cost the region $1 billion in visitor expenditure to date and that figure could be as high as $2.2 billion by December.
“We hope interstate visitors wanting to feel temperatures above 20C will fly into Cairns to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s oldest rainforest and the accessible outback,” he said.
“Our small population base and wide-open spaces make the Cairns region a highly desirable holiday destination for people wanting to leave the crowds of the cities behind.
“In the 12 months before our borders closed, we had 332,000 visitors from New South Wales, which was a 24.7% increase from the previous 12 months showing that interest in the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region is high.
“We have steady interstate booking for the school holidays in September, but there are still opportunities for couples to visit in August.
“Cairns and Great Barrier Reef is where you can swim with turtles, see cassowaries in the world’s oldest rainforest and dine on extraordinary regional produce in beautiful tropical resorts.
“The tourism industry has come to the party with fantastic deals, Cairns Airport is open and we are COVID-Safe – welcome to Cairns and Great Barrier Reef.”
On Sunday the first flight from Brisbane Airport’s new runway will land in Cairns carrying interstate travel media eager to experience post-COVID tourism on a familiarisation organised by Virgin Australia and TTNQ.