CEO-Board Updates

July 2023 CEO Update

Tropical North Queensland’s international recovery is well underway with the significant milestone of 10,000 passengers reached earlier this month, marking the busiest week for Cairns’ international terminal since February 2020.

This week-on-week growth has continued reaching 11,821 last week, which is more than 78% of the 15,094 passengers through in the same week in 2019. While numbers have been boosted with the arrival in Cairns of military personnel from 13 nations for Exercise Talisman Sabre, this growth is being assisted by the revival of the Japanese market.

The first International Visitor Survey since the pandemic recorded just 10,000 Japanese for the March quarter, which was 10% of arrivals for the same period in 2019. With the launch of Virgin Australia’s Haneda flights on 28 June, Cairns now has three direct routes for Japanese travellers to choose and we are seeing very strong signs that the number of Japanese arrivals is climbing steadily.

Skyscanner flight search data for the last 90 days shows Osaka, Narita and Haneda in the top six origin searches for Cairns internationally. The inbound flight searches from key airports in Japan are higher in 2023 than they were in 2019. This is higher again if you just look at Tokyo (Haneda and Narita). International mobile phone data suggests Japan is the third most prevalent market in the region over the past 90 days.

Virgin Australia introduced their new Boeing 737-8 aircraft on the Haneda to Cairns route on Saturday ushering in a new era of fuel efficiency and passenger comfort that saw it operating at full capacity. The narrow-body fuel-efficient planes mark the start of a new era in aviation for Cairns as their range is ideal to service our region from North Asia paving the way for opportunities to tap into the world’s fastest growing middle-income class.

On the back of meetings this month at Australia Marketplace South East Asia and India we have very strong interest from India, positive meetings in Singapore and even interest from Malaysia where we have not worked before.

A Cairns & Great Barrier Reef mission with 11 operators has just returned from Japan and the travel agents they met were very excited about the opportunities to grow travel to our destination from the business, corporate and school group sectors. TTNQ has also been involved in campaigns with HIS Tokyo, AirTrip and Club Tourism to encourage bookings from Japan through the three direct routes servicing our region.

The industry’s international recovery will help to create more direct and indirect employment in the tourism industry which before the pandemic supported one in five jobs in Tropical North Queensland. The Regional Satellite Accounts released last week showed this fell to one in seven jobs in 2021-22 when international borders were closed. The industry directly employed 18,300 people and supported 24,600 jobs in the region that year with both jumping almost 47% from the previous year.

With work underway to promote Cairns & Great Barrier Reef to our key global markets, the Satellite Account should look very different in two years’ time when we aim to boost tourism expenditure from $4.3 billion to $5 billion in 2025. We will soon announce new international missions so get ready to be involved in the recovery of Cairns & Great Barrier Reef as a leading international destination.


Mark Olsen
Chief Executive Officer