TNQ Tourism Recovery Fund

BRIEFING NOTE SUMMARY
  • Tropical North Queensland (TNQ) is world renowned as a leading tourism destination.
  • The visitor economy supports one in six jobs directly and indirectly, and pre-COVID the tourism sector paid more than $1 billion in State and Federal taxes per annum.
  • To date, the regional economy has lost $5.3 billion due to COVID-19 border closures.
  • A Federal Government investment of $40 million over 3 years is needed for marketing to rebuild tourism supply chains, attract new airline partners, restart international cruise ship markets, and develop new international source markets.
THE ISSUE

Tropical North Queensland (TNQ) is a significant tourism destination for both domestic and international visitors, with the region being the gateway to unique World Heritage assets.  With a tourism industry accounting for 25.4% of the regional economy, and international tourism representing 7.4% (Tourism Research Australia, 2021), the local economy faces significant exposure when an event like the COVID-19 pandemic occurs.

COVID-19 has devastated the TNQ tourism industry, and to date the regional economy has lost $5.3 billion in Gross Regional Product (GRP) due to border closures. Domestic lockdowns and no international visitors have led to the region losing $7 million a day, as well as more than 6,000 jobs, with another 3,000 forecast to be lost by December 2021. It is estimated that the TNQ economy will decline 18% in 2021 through direct and indirect impacts, with 15,000 jobs in the region also lost (Tourism and Transport Forum, 2021). Prior to COVID-19, tourism expenditure in the region was estimated to reach $5 billion by 2029.

In 2019, one in three visitors to the region was international, so the closure of international borders has impacted TNQ disproportionately. When international borders do reopen, the re-introduction of international aviation capacity to Australia is likely to be slow. Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) must therefore seek to maximise opportunities to recover domestic airline capacity and target destination marketing to drive the recovery of the TNQ tourism sector.

BACKGROUND

TNQ stretches from Cardwell to the Torres Strait and west to the Northern Territory border. Pre-COVID-19, TNQ received nearly three million domestic and international visitors annually. This equated to an estimated $3.5 billion in annual visitor spend in the year ended March 2020 (Tourism Research Australia, 2021). Two-thirds of the region’s visitor nights are domestic travellers, and one-third international. The visitor economy, made up of holiday, visiting friends and relatives, business events, major events, and education visitors, contributes over 17% of GRP in the region, supporting one in five jobs directly and indirectly.

Over the past decade, the funds available for tourism marketing in the state have not kept pace with the increased level of competition both in Australia and globally, and the impact of global travel restrictions from COVID-19 has seen the visitor economy come to a virtual standstill since March 2020. As the industry emerges, it is clear that the key to the recovery of the visitor economy, and the wider regional economy, is aviation led.

Air connectivity is key to the economic development of the Cairns region. It opens up new visitor markets, enables the export of agricultural produce, and promotes growth in the education sector. A daily international wide-body flight to Cairns is potentially a $200 million a year export business, with $100 million of international visitor spend, $50-$150 million of agricultural produce sales, and the potential to deliver more than 650 new jobs widely dispersed across the region.

Cairns Airport is the nation’s seventh busiest in terms of combined international and domestic passenger movements. It has historically handled around 130,000 aircraft and more than 5.2 million passenger movements per year. The airport is widely recognised as one of the most significant economic drivers in the Tropical North Queensland (TNQ) region and its facilities are critical pieces of economic infrastructure.

With limited international flights returning to Cairns in the immediate future, capturing as much domestic capacity as possible is crucial to support and re-energise the tourism sector and the local economy. The Cairns community welcomed the support of Governments in providing direct support to the airlines (Federal) and the airports (State) to assist the reintroduction of domestic services to Cairns and across the region. TNQ is seeking direct support for route marketing for secured aviation seats as part of the $40m Tourism Recovery Package.

 

NEXT STEPS

To drive the recovery of the TNQ tourism industry and wider regional economy, it is vital that there is investment in targeted support that will drive measurable outcomes. The TNQ visitor supply chain has been damaged as a result of COVID-19, and 20 years of investment in destination marketing has been disrupted.  Rebuilding the supply chain – including sourcing new products and suppliers, attracting new international airline partners, restarting international cruise ship market, and developing new international source markets – will require significant investment in destination marketing and brand building.

Finally, development of a reopening pathway with timeframes would allow the industry to be able to plan for the future and give confidence to travellers and the TNQ tourism sector.

OUR RECOMMENDATION
  • That the Federal Government invests $40 million in funding to Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) over three years for destination marketing to rebuild and source international markets, restart the cruise ship sector, and support domestic and international airline partners to market the secured aviation routes into the region and boost demand.
  • That the State and Federal Governments provide certainty to the TNQ tourism sector and provide a detailed roadmap to reopening, with timeframes, to enable future planning and instil traveler confidence.

SOURCE
  1. Tourism and Transport Forum Australia
PRIORITY: Policy
COUNCIL: All TNQ
STATE ELECTORATE: All TNQ
FEDERAL ELECTORATE: Leichhardt, Kennedy