The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed tourism for Far North Queensland' but a new CQUniversity study shows that the past two years has attracted younger' fun-seeking visitors – and experts say the tourism sector must act now to keep them coming.
The study' based on CQUniversity's Cairns Airport Survey of visitors departing by air since 2017' shows that across September 2020 – February 2021' a quarter of tourists were aged 18-29 and hailed from Queensland or South Australia.
These shifts in age group and origin are a result of the impacts of COVID-19 on travel' with older visitors choosing against travel and key markets from Victoria and New South Wales experiencing severe declines due to border closures and lockdowns.
The recent visitor cohort highlighted 'to have fun' as their biggest motivator to Cairns' followed by 'rest and relaxation'' and 'enjoying the tropical lifestyle'.
However' these visitors also placed greater importance on the Great Barrier Reef' Wet Tropics Rainforest' experiencing the natural environment and seeing Australian wildlife as motivations to visit the region.
Just over half visited the Great Barrier Reef during their stay' while 61.4 per cent visited Wet Tropics Rainforest. These figures indicate a renewed interest in the region's nature-based attractions.
The study' led by CQUniversity Tourism Lecturer Dr Michelle Thompson' and written by research student Katharina Dressler' also identified two main groups of post-pandemic visitors.
'Big-ticket icon seekers' who immerse themselves in nature-based experiences and 'recreational lifestylers' who are looking to enjoy the region's laid-back tropical lifestyle.
"We know Cairns and Far North Queensland has consistently attracted repeat visitors in those older demographics – as we emerge from the pandemic and broader travel options open up to Australians' to keep visitors coming back' tourism operators need to understand what 'fun' means to different visitor cohorts' whether its nature' dining out or relaxation' and focus on how to deliver that in the experiences they offer and promote'" Dr Thompson said.
Dr Thompson and her team will present the findings' and an overview from a new survey of drive tourists' at the Tourism Futures in Focus Research Symposium at CQUniversity Cairns on Thursday' 25 November' 2021.
The free event at 4.30pm will include perspectives from digital media and public art experts' exploring potential for growing the region's arts tourism opportunities.
To register and attend' visit eventbrite.com.au/e/tourism-futures-in-focus-research-symposium-tickets-200619527407