Budget night last week was one of the more memorable in my career as I received the call from Senators Don Farrell and Nita Green finally confirming that our destination would receive the promised $15 million in international destination marketing funds over the next three years.
Our whole industry had been waiting and worrying about this news and there has been much excitement that we can at last get on with planning the region’s international recovery. That excitement was keenly felt at the 2022 Simon George & Sons TNQ Tourism Industry Excellence Awards on Friday when many of the speakers and members of the audience acknowledged the support we have received from the Federal Government.
This three-year investment will generate more than $100 million of additional international visitor spend and support nearly 1000 jobs in our community. TTNQ and our industry has already begun work in the international markets by reconnecting with key trade and media in North America, Europe, the UK, Japan and Southeast Asia, but we need to do much more to stand out from the many destinations vying for international travellers.
We are in the process of finalising the contract with Austrade for the Federal funding with our focus remaining clearly on the three key elements we described to the then Prime Minister on the way to Green Island 12 months ago. We need to drive aviation demand on our direct routes in partnership with Cairns Airport and leverage the Queensland Government’s Aviation Attraction Investment Fund. We want to bring media and trade to our region to let them experience it first-hand, and help operators from our region reconnect with trade partners across the globe. Finally, we need to drive positive publicity and desire to travel to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s oldest rainforest, and our thriving tropical communities including experiencing the world’s oldest living culture.
Visitor numbers are softening and forward bookings are slow as we head into summer which was traditionally buoyed by international visitor numbers. We have begun summer marketing campaigns to entice domestic travellers north, but interest rate hikes and rising inflation will force many would-be travellers to tighten their belts. We know the Great Barrier Reef remains one of key motivators for travel to Australia, and reinstating its global reputation as a world-class visitor experience and environmentally and culturally significant ecosystem is a top priority for TTNQ.
So it was with great relief on Monday to have Senator Nita Green return to Cairns with the welcome news that the Federal Government would also support a $15.1 million initiative to help Great Barrier Reef tourism operators participate in stewardship activities that assist in monitoring and conserving the reef.
Twenty-six tourism operators along the Reef have been selected through a competitive tender process to participate in:
- Reef health and impact monitoring
- Facilitation of on-country visits for Traditional Owners to support reconnecting with country
- Crown-of-thorns starfish control
- Drupella snail removal
- Reef education resources
- Development of interpretation content, talks and tours that better connects visitors to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
- Permitted site-intervention activities such as coral gardening.
This funding will ensure operators on the Great Barrier Reef can continue to visit the reef to undertake these stewardship activities even if visitor numbers decline during summer while we try to rebuild our international markets.
The TTNQ team have begun work planning how the international destination marketing funding can be best spent to accelerate our region’s recovery in key international markets.
Chief Executive Officer