Council submits paper on future of tourism

Allowing local governments to introduce a visitor levy; developing a Nature-Based Tourism Strategy; reviewing the way major events are funded by the State; and placing a much greater emphasis on destination-specific tourism marketing are four of the 10 recommendations contained in Cairns Regional Council’s submission to the State Government’s Designing Our Future Tourism Discussion Paper.

The submission, endorsed by Council today, is structured in three distinct sections – the problems and opportunities; the solutions; and how to fund the solutions.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said it was never more important to review how the tourism industry is managed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically affected the sector since March last year.

“The economic impact felt in the Cairns region would have to be one of the worst in Australia and we know from the recently commissioned Deloitte Access Economics Report that our region will suffer a projected net loss of $6.5 billion in tourism expenditure over the period 2020 to 2029 due to COVID-19,” Cr Manning said.

“The region had already experienced a sustained decline in tourism market share before the onset of the pandemic in both international and domestic markets. The cause of this decline in market share is a multi-faceted issue, with a range of contributing factors and we believe that COVID-19 provides us now an opportunity to reassess and reset the trajectory of the tourism sector in both TNQ and Queensland.”

“We need to look at our approach to traditional markets, how we can access new markets building on competitive strengths, review longer term strategies for key growth sectors including nature based and cultural tourism, and establish strategic sustainable aviation links.”

The 10 recommendations contained in Council’s submission are:

  1. Develop and implement a Nature Based Tourism Strategy to enable TNQ’s and Queensland’s significant potential for nature-based tourism activities such as hiking and mountain biking to be fully realised.
  2. Leverage the enormous tourism potential of Queensland’s National Parks by ensuring appropriate access is provided and maintained for tourism activities within a sustainable management framework; and investing in infrastructure establishment and maintenance (walking/hiking/ mountain bike trails, trail head facilities etc) that will support sustainable tourism activities within National Parks.
  3. Develop and implement a Cultural Tourism Infrastructure Plan to build on existing infrastructure and competitive advantages and establish a dedicated funding stream to support investment in new cultural iconic tourism infrastructure and experiences such as the Cairns Gallery Precinct.
  4. Review the Event Funding Model with a view to supporting those destinations (such as Cairns and TNQ) located further from interstate markets; increase Business Event Funding support available to TNQ recognising the significant potential for business event attraction delivered by the upgraded Cairns Convention Centre; and establish a $3 million per annum TNQ Events Fund to attract new events and grow existing events over and above the current event funding program.
  5. Re-focus tourism marketing efforts with a greater emphasis on destination specific marketing, promoting those destinations (such as Cairns and the Great Barrier) that have well established national and international brand recognition, a broad range of tourism product and experience offerings, significant accommodation stock and well established domestic and international aviation connectivity.
  6. The Queensland Government should deliver a step change increase in destination marketing funding to ensure TNQ and Queensland are able to maximise tourism market share in the post-COVID-19 environment.
  7. An Aviation Capacity Expansion program should be established with a $100 million investment over four years.
  8. The Queensland Government should recognise the complementary benefits tourism and aviation access provides to other industry sectors including international education, agricultural export, film etc (and vice versa) and build strategies to leverage these complementary benefits wherever possible.
  9. The Queensland Government should undertake legislative change to provide local governments in Queensland with the ability to implement a visitor levy should they consider it appropriate for their community.
  10. The Queensland Government should provide an immediate short term ‘boost’ in tourism sector funding over the term of the current State Government to enable the solutions outlined in this submission to be implemented.

Mayor Manning said support initiatives from all levels of Government, in particular the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program, had helped mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

“However, it is clear that further support will be needed to support the sector’s recovery and harness the potential post-COVID-19 opportunities to increase sector performance and market share,” he added.

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