Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitor Survey for the December quarter (available here) does not make happy reading for the industry in the Far North. While total overnight domestic visitors in Australia rose by 4.2% from the previous year, and were up by 3.4% in Queensland, the TNQ region saw a decline of 11.3%. Overnight domestic visitors to the region fell to 1.9 million for the year to end Dec 2016 from 2.14 million the previous year.
Last quarter we posed the question “is the domestic tourism boom in the Far North coming to an end?” (see here) and concluded that it was probably too early to say. We wanted to see more data. Well, that data’s now in and it doesn’t look good.
Expenditure from domestic overnight visitors to TNQ has fallen by 15.5% from the previous year; this equates to almost $400 million less being spent in the region. Day visits have never played a large part in the TNQ story, but here too we see weakness (down 0.4%) in the face of stronger national and Queensland numbers (both up about 5.5%). Combining both overnight and day visits we see expenditure in TNQ down by 14.4% over the year.
As the chart below makes clear, the solid growth in international visitors (which continues unabated…see here from a fortnight ago) is not enough to make up for the large decline in the (much larger) domestic market. Total visitor expenditure in the region for the 2016 year fell 7.5% from 2015.
The reasons for such a decline over the past three quarters is not yet clear, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the heavily negative media regarding the bleaching event on the northern GBR last year (unfortunately being repeated again this year in the tourist hot-spots further south) may be deterring Aussies from making the trip to the north. Clearly TTNQ, and its soon-to-be-appointed new CEO, will be keen to reverse this worrying slide.
UPDATE. TTNQ have cast doubt on the data (see here) and TRA accept that the data from 2014 and 2015 could have over-stated the position for TNQ. If that is the case then the stellar results in past quarters (that TTNQ were happy to agree with) could have been an illusion…we shall have to see what TRA decide once they’ve completed their work on the data. Good coverage on this issue fro Mark Beath at Cairns Economy…see here.