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  • Tamara Sheward

    TropicNow writer

    Email Tamara Sheward

    International visitors to TNQ hit historic high

    The perception of Tropical North Queensland as a safe destination amid global upheaval is a driving force behind the record-breaking number of overseas visitors to the region.

    A new report by Tourism Research Australia shows that TNQ recorded the highest number of international visitors out of anywhere in Queensland in 2016.

    An unprecedented 901,000 people arrived in the far north from overseas in the 12 months to December 2016, a 15.3 per cent growth from 2015.

    The report also shows a 16.2 per cent rise in people travelling here specifically for holidays, as well as a 10.1 per cent rise ($1.1 billion) in overnight visitor expenditure.

    Tourism marketing consultant Ron Livingston called the growth numbers “very encouraging”.

    “I can’t remember at any time in my 26 years n Cairns having so many factors in our favour,” he told TropicNow.

    In addition to “excellent marketing efforts” and good airline access, Mr Livingston hailed TNQ’s reputation as being “safe” as a reason behind booming visitor numbers.

    “There’s so much uncertainty in the world, but we are viewed as a place that is away from all of that,” he said.

    “The Japanese especially have always perceived this as a safe, nature-based destination.

    “For the American market too, the perception of safety is a big factor in their decision-making, and I think that’s reflected in their 14.6 per cent growth, a big number.

    “For us to have – and keep – this reputation is very important.”

    The report showed an increase in numbers of visitors from nearly all overseas markets, with China and Hong Kong topping the list with a 30 per cent growth (253,000 total arrivals).

    And while Japanese numbers aren’t yet reaching the staggering figures of TNQ’s 1990’s boomtime, experts aren’t sneezing at a 21.2 per cent rise in visitors from the country.

    “Japanese numbers have been on the improve for a number of years,” Mr Livingston said.

    “The Japanese market is very fashion conscious, and the far north region is back in fashion.

    “If current conditions continue, we’ll be looking at a very reasonable growth rate from the Japanese market."

    The only decline recorded in the report was the European market, down by -0.3 per cent.

    Mr Livingston said that while TNQ was in a good position for continued growth, this wasn’t a time to rest on our laurels.

    “It doesn’t take much for growth, especially such strong growth as we’re seeing now, to slow down.

    “My advice is that during the good times, we need to keep working to be sure we’re keeping up with global standards.

    “Accommodation operators should be reinvesting in refurbishment now, not later.

    “Don’t kick back: keep getting better!”

    In announcing the results of the report, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said 2016 saw a record influx of 2.6 million international visitors to the state, a 14 per cent jump from 2015, with overnight expenditure was up to $5.1 billion.