Cairns set to boom as slumping dollar lures international tourists

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TOURISM centres such as Cairns will be boom towns within five years as domestic and international tourists are lured by an Australian dollar as low as US58c, BIS Shrapnel forecasts.

(SOURCE: The Courier Mail September 09, 2015)

The consultancy’s chief economist Frank Gelber said that after a long period of suffering under a high dollar during the mining boom, tourism — along with education, agriculture and manufacturing — were set to stage a strong recovery.

“The mining boom is as dead as a dodo,” Mr Gelber told a Brisbane conference yesterday.

“But rising from the ashes like a phoenix will be industries like tourism.”

 

Related: “Why Cairns is set to prosper”

 

Mr Gelber expected the Aussie dollar could drop to as low as US58c, spurring not only a surge in international tourists but domestic visitors as overseas holidays became more expensive.

The Australian dollar has dropped by a quarter against the greenback in the past year, and is now trading around US70c.

“It is not only going to be good; it is going to be terrific,” Mr Gelber said.

“Investing in things like hotels and retail centres in tourism regions will be really strong in the future.

“For 10 years places like Cairns have been flat, and when something broke it wasn’t fixed. Hotels were closed down because people were not coming.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Alex de Waal said tourism numbers had increased over the past year, helped by the lower dollar.

Tourism expenditure in tropical north Queensland was expected to climb from $2.8 billion at present to as much as $4.1 billion by 2020.

Big hopes are already being pinned on the planned $8.15 billion Aquis mega-resort near Cairns, while luxury hotel chain Langham has announced it wants to expand to north Queensland.

Hilton Cairns general manager John Lucas said the lower dollar was expected to boost tourist numbers over the next few years, but it would be a gradual improvement.

He said there had been substantial investment in refurbishment over the past few years by operators.

Ocean Hotels and Sunlover Reef Cruises group general manager Julie Duncan said the Cairns-based business already was seeing an uptick in tourists.

“We see particular growth in middle-class tourists from China and India,” Ms Duncan said. “Australia is seen as a safe place and now they have more to spend because of the lower dollar.”

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway managing director Craig Pocock said the cablecar attraction had seen double-digit growth in visitor numbers since June.

“As soon as the dollar dropped, we saw an immediate boost in domestic tourists and now we are seeing an uptick in the longer-haul tourists,” he said.

Mr Pocock said if the dollar fell to around US58c, holidaymakers from the US and UK would find Australia a very affordable holiday destination.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said there had been double-digit growth in tourism numbers this year, with hotel occupancy standing between 90 per cent and 94 per cent.

“Visitor demand has been high and continues to be high,” Cr Manning said.

 

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Jason Thomson | Finance Broker and Mortgage Adviser | Smartline Cairns

 

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