Tourism sector set for another bumper year

WITH a strong Christmas and New Year season behind us and a buoyant Chinese New Year to look forward to, Tropical North Queensland has a very happy 2016 in the making.
The region’s diverse offering with our dual World Heritage areas, more than 100 ways to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Outback easily accessed from the coast ensures visitors can tailormake their holiday to suit their interests.

Tropical North Queensland delivers a holiday with quality products in a safe environment, making it a popular choice for Australian and international travellers.
And with the Australian dollar dipping to US68c last week, travel to destinations such as ours becomes even more attractive.
The most recent international and national visitor surveys show just how popular our destination is with Tropical North Queensland the No.1 region in Queensland for international holidays and record spending by domestic visitors. These great results prompted the Tourism and Major Events Minister Kate Jones to issue a media release saying the strong rise in holiday travel to Tropical North Queensland resulted in Queensland’s best yet year in domestic tourism.
The 2.8 million visitors to Tropical North Queensland and $3.1 billion expenditure for the
year ending September exceeded Tourism Tropical North Queensland’s targets, and there are signs this forward trajectory should continue.

Chinese New Year next month is jump-starting the year with some 100 charter flights
from mainland China and Hong Kong as well as additional domestic flights adding to our four weekly Cathay Pacific services. We have an early Easter to look forward to in March and a strong calendar of more than 60 events throughout the year to attract visitors to Tropical North Queensland.
Our strategy to draw visitors to the region during shoulder seasons will be boosted as new
and existing events move to these seasons. The Professional Bull Riders, for example, has moved to March. We have some top international events this year with the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship moving to Cairns in June and the 2016 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup returning in April. The RACQ North Queensland Games will bring 5000 competitors
in June and the highly anticipated NRL match featuring Premiership winners North
Queensland Cowboys in July will attract strong numbers. In between we have events across many sports including BMX, AFL, baseball, cricket, running and cycling, as well as a mix of cultural festivities such as the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair and the Cairns Ukulele Festival.

The conference sector is looking strong as the Cairns Convention Centre has a good mix of
association and corporate events booked across the medical, scientific and agricultural sectors. The 1500-passenger Pacific Eden will homeport in Cairns bringing an $8 million boost to the region as passengers fly in and out to join her. Our Reef fleet has expanded with new and upgraded vessels to cater for the anticipated interest following Tourism Australia’s coastal campaign and Sir David Attenborough’s series on the Great Barrier Reef, plus a worldclass aquarium is under construction.
While Tourism Tropical North Queensland helps drive the positive results we are  enjoying, ultimately it is the tourism industry that deserves the accolades. We are fortunate to have many businesses in our region that deliver quality tourism experiences.
This was demonstrated last week in TripAdvisor’s 2016 Travellers’ Choice Awards where five Tropical North Queensland operators were among the top 25 hotels.


Sheraton Mirage first stage upgrade nears completion at Port Douglas

The Fullshare Group has announced a complete redevelopment of the Sheraton Mirage resort

THE $40 million first stage of the Sheraton Mirage Resort redevelopment at Port Douglas has reached halfway.

About half of the resort’s 294 rooms have been refurbished and demolition of the central complex is under way.

It comes as amendments to the property’s Integrated Resort Scheme deed of agreement have been supported by Douglas Shire Council and now go to the State Government.

If approved by the State Government, which regulates the development and use of the land within the Sheraton Mirage precinct under the Integrated Resort Development Act 1987 (IRDA), the amendments will formalise land use and infrastructure arrangements between the council and the resort’s developers.

The proposed amendments allow for a day spa, a health/rejuvenation centre and a medical centre in the residential precinct of the resort, the relocation of the heliport and the realignment of the golf course and resolve infrastructure and water issues.

Managing director Yi Yu said it would pave the way for the second stage of the $200 million resort redevelopment, which included a new $10 million convention centre near the Sheraton, a new conference hotel near the country club, day spa and health centre, apartments, new golf residential estates, a gated estate and six-star villas along the beachfront.

“This will enable us to proceed with stage two in the future,” he said.

Mr Yu said in the meantime stage one was progressing well.

He said the first stage, which included the remaining hotel suite refurbishments as well as a new lobby cafe bar, should be completed by mid-May.

Mayor Julia Leu said the agreement was the result of extensive and detailed negotiations between the council and the resort developers.

“The Sheraton Mirage is an iconic resort not just for Port Douglas, but for Australia, which is demonstrated by the fact that its land uses are regulated by a specific piece of state legislation,” she said.

“It’s great news for the Douglas Shire and the Australian tourism industry that the developers are so focused on returning the Sheraton Mirage to its former glory with a multimillion-dollar refurbishment and these proposed amendments pave the way for this to occur.”


Tourism minister praises Far North Queensland for visitor and dollar growth


THE tropical north’s tourism industry has received a glowing year-end report card from state Tourism Minister Kate Jones.

The praise from George St follows the latest National Visitor Survey results showing the region has topped growth in domestic holiday visitor numbers by 21 per cent to 1.1 million people and overall numbers by 19.4 per cent to 2 million.

For the first time Australians holidaying in the region spent more than $2 billion in a year and with overseas tourists the total was $3.1 billion.

Ms Jones said the “strong rise in holiday travel to Tropical North Queensland has resulted in Queensland’s best-ever year in domestic tourism”.

“As it did in the recent international survey, Tropical North Queensland continues to record significant uplift with a 19 per cent rise in total visitors to just over two million with more than $2 billion, an 18 per cent growth in expenditure,” Ms Jones said.

“This supports Tourism and Events Queensland’s strong focus on the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical North Queensland as one of the most sought after locations on earth.

“Domestic overnight visitor expenditure increased in six of Queensland’s tourism regions, with the strongest growth recorded in TNQ and Townsville.”

Queensland Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said it was “a great result”.

“It’s an indication we are back in business in Queensland,” he said.

“I was in Cairns last week. There is a good mood. The restaurants are busy, the retailers are busy, the operators are busy, the hotels are busy.”

Mr Gschwind said the Great Barrier Reef was fundamental to tourism.

He said the Sir David Attenborough Reef series to be broadcast next year would have an enormous impact.

TTNQ business and tourism events director Rosie Douglas said TTNQ and the region’s operators had long recognised the importance of the domestic market.

“We have been consistent in our domestic marketing even during the years when the Australian dollar was high,” she said.

Ms Douglas said events were designed to draw visitors in the off-season.

“Its success was demonstrated by the Brisbane Roar game in Cairns last weekend which attracted strong visitation from Brisbane during a normally quiet time,” she said.


Rosy outlook for Cairns

A DEVELOPMENT industry report paints a rosy future for Cairns.

But it warns that a lack of major private projects and state and federal government funding was stifling confidence and investment.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia Queensland Industry Insights report says strong tourism is leading “a resurgence” in Cairns.

“Cairns has remained strong based on a growing confidence that the region is finally in recovery mode,” the report said.

“However, Cairns is coming off a very low base and almost a decade of very slow growth. “Should major tourism ­infrastructure projects proceed there is an expectation that Cairns would receive a significant economic boost both in terms of the construction cycle and ongoing employment ­generation.”

The report said government infrastructure investment was needed to boost the economy but there had been noticeable lack of state or federal government budget spending.

“The lack of significant infrastructure spending in the region does not help improve confidence,” it said.

UDIA Cairns branch chairman Adam Gowlett said the report was the result of a widespread survey and “paints Cairns as being in a pretty enviable position”.

“Compared to much of the state, Cairns has a good outlook for a continued gentle recovery across all sectors of the market,” he said.

“A lack of government infrastructure projects in the region are having a mildly negative impact on the way the region is recovering.

“Infrastructure projects are the ‘bread and butter’ jobs that keep suppliers and trades busy while waiting for the next major private projects to kick off.”

Advance Cairns chief executive Mark Matthews said governments needed to be serious about Northern Australia development and deliver on infrastructure projects that would provide a catalyst for economic growth.

“Our region has an infrastructure deficit which must be addressed in the short term,” he said.

“The region is optimistic about the future and ready to embrace and support regional growth.”

Herron Todd White research director Rick Carr said investment projects were a ­priority.

“What would work wonders for our market though is for some job-creating investment projects to start happening to kick the economy along and dramatically improve market confidence,” he said.

“My expectation for the next 12 months is for (housing) sales volumes to begin rising again as the economy generally improves and for prices to continue rising mildly.”


Redesign of Aspial’s Nova tower to be voted on by Cairns’ Councillors

A REDESIGN of the first of the $550 million seven Nova towers in the Cairns CBD is being considered by the Cairns Regional Council.

The Aspial Corporation returned to the drawing board to include sub-basement parking, which would include a podium above ground, as well as more two-bedroom units, after underground parking was ruled out.

Kelly Wickham of consultants Kelly Development said an updated development plan had been lodged with the council.

She said approval of the plan was the final step before works started.

SKY HIGH: A new artist's impression of the Nova8 towers planned by Singapore's Aspial Cor

“The updated plans see changes to the Nova apartment mix based on local feedback. There is an increased number of two-bedroom units throughout the six residential towers as a result,” Ms Wickham said.

“In addition to revision of the unit mix for the 1132 apartment development, the project team have unveiled a striking new exterior to the podium levels to increase the visual flair of the development.

“All revisions have now been submitted to the council in a formal application for feedback. Council has been very thorough and collaborative during the preliminary design and will now finalise their development approval process.

“The Nova team are hopeful of a successful outcome for this highly significant project.

“To produce the latest plans, the developer has spent significant further moneys with local companies such as CA Architects, Flanagan Consulting Group and Planning Plus.”

Ms Wickham said the Nova display building was almost finished.

“Our priority is on finalising our interior design schemes to allow for internal completion as soon as possible however the developer wants to ensure as much feedback from local consultants is received to give a true reflection of Cairns in the interior design,” she said.

Late last week State Treasurer and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt met Aspial chief executive and chairman Koh Wee Seng.

An Aspial representative said Mr Koh was “very pleased to meet with the Queensland Treasurer face to face and hear about Queensland’s future economic plans”.

“The talks were positive and encouraging,” he said.

Mr Pitt said there was keen interest in Asia about investing in Queensland, especially in tourism regions such as Cairns.



First National Real Estate Cairns Central says claims of a looming ‘housing market bloodbath’ in the Parliamentary submission of two economists are overly technical and fail to appreciate the realities of Australian Real Estate, where the bulk of our population wants to live in a fraction of available space, and where home ownership is deeply embedded in the national psyche.

‘The submission suggests that house prices must fall to once again reflect economic fundamentals. However, it depends entirely on what fundamentals you consider and with all the talk of affordability issues in the media, it’s easy for consumers to be blinded to the truths that underpin Australian real estate’ said First National Real Estate Cairns central principal, David Forrest.

Economists generally measure affordability using a comparison of middle-market house prices against average incomes, as measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Based on average household incomes of $75,000 to $85,000, that makes a house in Sydney about 9.7 times average income; a house in Melbourne about 7.3 times income, and a house in Brisbane about 6 times average income.

‘The problem with the ABS income figures is that they disguise the real picture. They include a range of people not actually in the housing market and research from Barclays argues average household incomes are actually significantly higher in Australia – in the region of $122,000’ said David Forrest.

‘This explains why many Australians can afford homes in the region of $650,000 to $800,000 on loan to value ratios of 70 per cent. Also, 10 to 15 years ago, ABS statistics indicated only 250,000 households earned over $156,000 per annum. That figure has now increased to more than a million Australian households and the number of households earning in excess of $260,000 has tripled.’

By contrast, housing stocks in fashionable capital city areas have not increased by anywhere near that magnitude and, when people don’t want to consider suburbs where homes are cheaper, the impression is created that housing is unaffordable. Yet, throughout Australia’s suburbs and regions there are many affordable alternatives available.

‘Our local and Federal Governments need to maintain focus on much needed public transport infrastructure that facilitates easy access to employment centres, release more land for housing construction, and consider incentives that help people relocate to regional centres where businesses are struggling to find talented employees’ said David Forrest.

First National Real Estate Announces Cairns 2016 National Convention

Australasia’s largest independent real estate network, First National Real Estate, has announced that it will host its 2016 National Convention at the Hilton Cairns next May. The event is anticipated to attract over 400 estate agents and will contribute more than a million dollars to the Cairns and Far North Queensland economy.

Speaking on behalf of the network’s local offices, principal of First National Cairns Central, David Forrest, emphasised the importance that First National Real Estate places upon arranging key components of its conference so that as many tourism operators and local businesses receive as large a benefit as possible.

‘While the focus of our National Conventions is always on professional development, there are quite a number of separate VIP, fundraising and awards events around the convention that will be held in different locations’ said Mr Forrest.

‘Plus many of our members will extend their stay afterwards, taking the opportunity to explore the region in which we base our convention. This means car hire companies; hotels, restaurants, retailers and a large list of tourism attractions will be the recipients of a boost to business.’

The network has just completed its 2015 National Convention in Queenstown, New Zealand, where it celebrated its 30th anniversary in both the north and south islands. Founded in regional Victoria 33 years ago, New Zealand was the first area of major international expansion for the Australian cooperative and today, First National Real Estate has grown to over 400 offices, nearly 80 of which are distributed throughout Queensland.

‘One of the factors that influenced First National to choose Cairns for next year’s convention was the impending release of vital projects such as Nova Cairns, Aquis and now C3. These developments were seen as important enterprises in Cairns and First National’s Executive determined that it’s presence may boost confidence and employment prospects locally’ said Mr Forrest.

‘We’re very proud of the opportunity this presents for Cairns and are excited about working with the planning committee over the next eleven months to showcase the best that Cairns has to offer.’