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  • Shaun Donaldson


    Email Shaun Donaldson

    Opportunities from global trends means future of Cairns economy is bright

    TropicNow columnist and Halpin Partners business analyst Shaun Donaldson casts his eye to the future of our region's economy.

    Let's get straight to the point: I'm a positive person and I see a bright future for Cairns.

    Rather than focusing on individual projects - which would all deliver a big boost for our economy - I believe our local economy will be driven by several key macro-economic trends going forward.


    The increase of Chinese outbound tourism is an irreversible global economic trend.

    Coupled with a return of visitors from established markets thanks to a low dollar, and other emerging markets in Asia and India, we will see more tourists in Australia year-on-year.

    Cairns is well positioned to capitalise on this growth if we get our tourism offering right.


    No-one I speak to understands the reach of the NDIS.

    Not only will it increase funding levels it will transfer spending decisions from government to families.

    This means businesses will be selling their wares to families - that is customers - rather than winning big government tenders to provide care services.

    This will create huge opportunities for health and community services, our region's biggest employers.

    Asia’s Food Bowl

    Much has been made of Australia being Asia’s food bowl, and to date much of this talk seems very hollow for many primary producers here in North Queensland.

    There is no denying that in many areas North Queensland has a premium product, whether it's fruit, beef, dairy, or coffee and demand for these products from developing economies will continue to grow.

    Our main issue is logistics and getting our product to market in Asia.

    Hopefully this will be solved in the future through a growing tourism industry bringing more wide-bodied aircraft to Cairns.

    If the stars align watch out: agribusiness will boom in North Queensland.

    Defence and marine

    Despite lingering local disappointment about the lost contract for the Pacific Patrol Boats earlier this year Cairns is well placed to become an important service hub for Australia’s Navy.

    I can see this increase in capacity opening up many opportunities in marine industries as our local infrastructure and capability continues to grow.

    The future

    On arrival in Cairns several years ago a well-respected business man told me that Cairns was different from other Queensland towns.

    We don’t rely on governments or a mine for opportunity, he said.

    Instead, we make it on our own, be it in tourism, agriculture or other industries.

    I believe this local entrepreneurship aligned with macro-economic trends and the opportunities they present over the next few years will see Cairns experience positive economic growth, with or without Aquis.