The Chinese New Year season has grown significantly this year with nearly double the number of charter flights from China and the season lasting from January through to early May. Conservative estimates indicate that between 35,000 and 40,000 visitors from China are expected to stay in the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region during the Chinese New Year festivities bringing a $17-20 million boost to the region’s economy. The destination is attracting both increasing attention and length of stay which has grown from 2.8 to 3.4 nights and together these are impacting positively in terms of expenditure growth.

In the past decade 37 per cent of Cairns & Great Barrier Reef’s visitors from China arrived in the March quarter from January to March which incorporates Chinese New Year. We anticipate Chinese visitors will increase from 61,050 to 73,260 in this year’s March quarter. Chinese tourism for the rest of the year is also looking strong with many agents predicting 10-20 per cent growth over the next 12 months.

The Great Barrier Reef is the number one drawcard for Chinese visitors to Australia and they want to see it the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region. The region’s larger reef operators with pontoons have been running at full capacity during Chinese New Year and had groups on waiting lists for cancellations. Great Adventures employed 23 Chinese speaking staff this season compared to 18 last year, and Quicksilver has seven Chinese speaking staff.

The Wet Tropics rainforest is the next most popular experience and pleasingly we are seeing growth in other experiences such as the Undara Lava Tubes and Mossman Gorge, while one land-based operation recorded a 42 per cent increase in bookings from the previous year.

It is estimated that 45 per cent of the Chinese market are now free and independent travellers and that 14 per cent of Chinese visitors to Cairns & Great Barrier Reef are on their second visit to Australia.

There are opportunities for our destination to further encourage repeat visitation with a greater emphasis on sporting events and festivals as well as product development, whether it’s a catch-a-crab tour, evening entertainment or 6-star accommodation options.

The Cairns & Great Barrier Reef destination is the antithesis to China – we have a relaxed and welcoming culture in a pristine environment where we balance our work with an outdoor lifestyle. Our blue-sky destination also has two natural World Heritage areas with an incredible array of experiences.

With just eight hours flying time, our location is also perfect. All we need to make the most of this rapidly developing market is increased capacity through direct airline services.

A big thank you to the many Cairns & Tropical North Visitor Information Centre volunteers who helped at the Chinese New Year Festival in Grafton St. Airport Ambassador Tony Peace (left) is pictured with VIC volunteer Pat Keith and Manager Wayne Joughin.

(Industry News issue 25/02/2016)