Our History

Tourism Tropical North Queensland evolved from a grassroots community and business movement to help the region’s slowing economy through the Far North Queensland Promotion Bureau. In 1971 visitor spend was at $50 million with most visitors arriving in Cairns by steamer, rail and caravan. However, the potential to grow tourism was recognised when Hollywood superstar Lee Marvin made a name for Cairns through his regular game fishing trips during the 1970s.

 

In response to the need for a coordinated and cooperative approach to tourism marketing, the Far North Queensland Development Bureau set up a Board for Tourism and Travel. Professional fundraisers secured $40,000 to $50,000 a year from local authorities and the business community for the first five years, giving the region one of the largest destination marketing budgets in Australia at the time.

In 1978 the Far North Queensland Promotion Bureau was formed to focus on destination marketing and as a result tourism slowly overtook agriculture, forestry and mining as an economic driver for the community. In the seven years from 1974 to 1982 bed spaces increased 150% to 7500 with more than 400 tourism businesses, including $30 million worth of reef boats, and some 30 tour bus options. By 1993 tourism was worth about $120 million a year.

The Cairns International Airport opened in 1984 and international marketing of the destination began in earnest. Just two years later significant investment in tourism infrastructure began with Japanese investors leading the way by building hotels and expanding the reef fleet.

Tourism was booming until the pilot’s dispute in the summer of 1989 and 1990 cut the supply of visitors to Cairns, demonstrating just how dependent the region was on tourism and aviation. TTNQ worked on coordinated campaigns to strategically rebuild markets and at the time was acknowledged as one of the most active, aggressive and effective tourism promotional bodies in the country. Tropical North Queensland experienced the strongest growth and recovery of any destination in Australia.

In the 1990s, the Cairns Region Tourism Strategy, which drew on the resources of more than 90 agencies, set a blueprint for the region to develop a diversified tourism product and ensure sustainable use of its natural and cultural assets in the hope of future-proofing the industry.

With construction starting on the Cairns Convention Centre in 1992, attention turned to the meetings and incentives market. The region’s fortunes turned around in 1993 when its 17% growth in visitor numbers far exceeded the State’s 4% growth. That year the Promotion Bureau had one of the highest levels of membership of any regional tourism organisation in Australia. The following year tourism became the region’s first billion dollar industry.

In 1998 the Bureau began trading as Tourism Tropical North Queensland to reflect the new destination marketing name of Tropical North Queensland and a consumer website was launched as a marketing tool.

Aviation continued to be a challenge with the cancellation of services from Japan in 1998 and the loss of Singapore Airlines and Garuda in 2000. The Cairns Aviation Strategy Team brought TTNQ, the Cairns Port Authority (which operated the airport at the time) and Tourism Queensland together to lobby for international and domestic aviation services. In 2001 Ansett collapsed resulting in a 40% loss of domestic capacity to Cairns.

Devastating cyclones in 2006 and 2011 compounded by the Global Financial Crisis brought a tourism downturn that filtered throughout the region’s economy. Strengthening and diversifying the region’s tourism industry and destination appeal was an essential part of the 2011-2031 Tropical North Queensland Regional Economic Plan. Increasing sports and events tourism, eco and nature-based tourism, and education tourism were part of the growth strategy.

Since then sports and events tourism has helped spread visitation into traditional shoulder seasons and Tropical North Queensland is now known internationally as a sports destination thanks to events like Ironman Asia-Pacific and the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships. In 2018 education tourism is supporting 300 jobs in Cairns and work has started on the Wangetti Trail, a walking and mountain biking trail to be marketed as one of the top 10 trails in Australia.

With aviation access critical to the region’s future prosperity, TTNQ successfully lobbied the Queensland Government to establish an aviation attraction fund which resulted in direct flights from China to Cairns beginning in 2017. Direct flights to Asian destinations have paved the way for the region’s agricultural sector to export produce, further strengthening the Tropical North Queensland economy.

TTNQ was also instrumental in convincing the Ghassan Aboud Group to begin its foray into Australian hotel development in Cairns with robust forecasting showing the time was right for new tourism infrastructure. In 2018 the Group’s Crystalbrook Collection is transforming the Cairns skyline with a $500 million investment in three new international hotels.

After consulting members and industry partners, the TTNQ Board embarked on a strategic review which resulted in the 2018-2020 Strategic Direction. This plan is being implemented by the TTNQ team to deliver $3.5 billion expenditure in 2020 and lead the way forward to the vision of becoming one of the world’s most inspiring nature based destinations.

#ExploreTNQ

If the only trills you’ve heard in a while have come from notifications on your devices, it’s time to plan your escape from the sounds of the city & replace them with the bird calls of the forest, at @rosegumswildernessretreat on the @athertontablelands 🌿✨
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​📸 @phlipvids #thisisqueensland #exploreTNQ #explorecairnsGBR #seeaustralia
@portdouglasdaintree might be home to one of the most picturesque churches in all of @australia ✨⛪️ After almost being demolished in the mid-1980s, The iconic St Mary’s By the Sea chapel is the last remaining church of historical significance in Port Douglas 🙌🌴 Not to mention it makes for one dreamy photo op, no wonder it's one of the region's favourite wedding spots! 😍
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​📸 @davidlloydphotography #explorecairnsGBR #thisisqueensland #exploreTNQ  #seeaustralia
Island paradise in @tropicalcoastqueensland 🏝

This is #MuggyMuggyBeach on #DunkIsland just off the #CassowaryCoast ☀️🐚 Find a friend with a boat, hire your own boat or book a charter boat & head on over to this breathtaking island. If you're looking for a little more adventure you can book a campsite to stay the night, or stop in with @coralexpeditions on your way south to Hinchinbrook Island​! It's a top choice no matter how you get there 😍🌊
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📸 @phlipvids #exploreTNQ #thisisqueensland  #explorecairnsGBR #seeaustralia
Did you know that the fish sculptures at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, by Torres Strait Islander artist Brian Robinson, are modelled on smaller fish usually woven with palm leaves in traditional Indigenous artwork 🐠🌴 #Cairns is the perfect place to spend the day on your next tropical holiday - quirky markets, incredible food & luxury stays, this is where your holiday begins ☀️🌊 
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​📸 @danandmoore #exploreTNQ #explorecairnsGBR #seeaustralia  #thisisqueensland
Winter is in a few months time, you know what that means...​It's almost dwarf minke whale season! 🐋 
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​While 'dwarf' might not seem like the right word to describe a creature up to 8 metres in length & almost 6 tonnes heavy 🏋️‍♂️ They’re actually much smaller in comparison to their common minke cousins! Little is known about this pocket-sized whale, but the @gbrmarinepark is the only known predictable aggregation in the world & the only place where people are able to swim alongside this majestic animal 🐠🤿 
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​One thing that we do know is that these curious creatures love to hang around boats & divers to show off a little ⛵️ But only for a few months of the year, so if you’re looking to make friends with a minke head on over to @mikeballdive 🐚🌊
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​You'll have a whale of a time 😉

📸 @seajewlz #thisisqueensland  #seeaustralia #exploreTNQ #explorecairnsGBR #dwarfminkewhale
Staying at a hotel just to sleep in a nice room? Nah, staying at a hotel to make full use of all the incredible amenities, like a takeaway picnic pack from @​reefhousepalmcove 🌴🧺 These perfect packs can be enjoyed wherever your heart desires, whether that's on the beach, by the pool, in-room or on a day out exploring our beautiful region ☀️🌊
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​#explorecairnsGBR #seeaustralia  #thisisqueensland #exploreTNQ
It might have been a rough ride lately, but not to worry, @cairnsadventuregroup is here to help! 🛶🌊 If your idea of a fun-filled day includes rushing rapids & getting wet & wild, then #TullyRiver rafting with @ragingthunder is just the thing to get the adrenaline pumping & liven up your time in @tropicalnorthqueensland 🌿☀️
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​#thisisqueensland #exploreTNQ #seeaustralia  #explorecairnsGBR #cassowarycoast @tropicalcoastqueensland