Several worrying signs about our immediate tourism future have been seen, but not read.
1. Currently, Tourism Queensland is focusing on selling Queensland overseas with its 'Sunshine' campaign, while at the same time acknowledging that the increasing value of the $AU will put Australia (and Queensland) 'out of reach' of more and more international travellers budgets.
2. Rumours of big cuts to Tourism Queensland's budget have been leaking out of Hamilton Island since Tourism QLD's 'bigwigs' had a meeting there last month. There may be no money left to traditionally promote Queensland to Australians (Domestic), one of the few markets in the world that does have money to spend on a holiday.
3. The good Regional Tourism Organizations (if they have any money left) will intensify their marketing to entice folk to stay in their part of Queensland, creating more fragmentation of tourism promotion of Queensland, and cannibalizing the finite number of visitors to Queensland from other regions. This will hit the Western and lesser known tourism regions hard.
4. Tourism Whitsundays received over $750,000 from local and state governments a few months ago, so they should have several hundred thousand dollars to spend at this critical time, that is, if they haven't spent that money already. However, I am not confidant Tourism Whitsundays can produce a successful campaign.
5. Tourism operators will be individually marketing themselves, creating internal parochialism and increasing regional tensions, ie 'Hamilton Island Vs Airlie Beach'.
6. Like the past two Christmas', people will prefer to drive less than one day to get to their holiday destination. This means regions within 500km of large population centres will do well again this year, ie, Hervey Bay, SE QLD / Nth NSW Rivers, Mission Beach.
7. North Queensland has a problem trying to get southern Australians to drive further north than Fraser Island (except the grey nomads). It seems the three major issues here are:
(a) People don't like backtracking on a driving holiday - there is no 'tourism friendly / North - South' alternative route to the Bruce Highway north of Rockhampton.
(b) Four people in a Commodore would take two days to drive, and two tanks of fuel to get from Hervey Bay to the Whitsundays. This means, if they stay just two nights in the Whitsundays, they have used up a week, about $400 in fuel and anywhere between $300 - $600 in overnight accommodation, not counting what they spend in the Whitsundays.
They will more likely 'U Turn' at Bundaberg and spend the savings at Dreamworld or other SE QLD facilities on the way home.
(c) One of the causes of diminishing southern driving tourists to North Queensland may have been the dropping of the State fuel levy.
8. Almost all southern tourists to the Whitsundays fly direct in on flights from Sydney and Melbourne, however, they land on Hamilton Island. For them to visit Airlie Beach, it costs a group of four people around $600 to visit Airlie Beach for the day - and that's if they don't spend a cent in the Airlie Beach economy.
9. The Australian dollar has appreciated an amazing 50% against the $US since the GFC two years ago, making international destinations within budget reach of travellers who were intending to take a domestic holiday.
10. What is not emphasized (and should be) is that the Whitsundays (and Queensland) have world-class Medical, Search and Rescue services, stringent policing of safety, environmental and regulatory laws, and highly qualified operators and instructors.
11. We are in a very good position for attracting working holiday folk who can get here on the 12 months working Visa - which is around 30 countries:
* we need the workers;
* the workers get paid in Australian dollars;
* our social & political climate is one of the best in the world;
but we aren't.
Maybe we should be looking at making the 12 months 'Working Visa for Gap Year' tourists available to more countries.
12. Reports of Queensland having its worse cyclone season in 40 years haven't helped.
Some numbers coming out of the Whitsundays Tourism Trends website are not looking good.
12 Months - Comparison between Now and this time Last Year:
People searching for travel:
- International - Australia - Steady
- International - Hamilton Island - down 17%
- Domestic - Australia - down 6%
- Domestic - Hamilton Island - down 25%
- Domestic - Airlie Beach - down 1%
Queensland Tourism Trends : Statistics and Graphs