Chinese tourism boom for Cairns?

Cairns business leaders have been pinning their hopes on a surge in Chinese tourism for a while now, and they remain confident according to a Cairns Post report from yesterday (Could Cairns be on the cusp of a Chinese tourism boom?):

Cairns Airport chief executive Kevin Brown said Cairns had only “begun to scratch the surface in developing and servicing the Chinese tourism and business market.”

“There is huge potential for our region,” Mr Brown will tell the January 29 Cairns Airport Chinese New Year Yum Cha Business Event.

“We had direct China Eastern flights from Shanghai in place for most of 2013 and even without direct flights the Chinese visitor market shows strong growth trends with people willing to reach our destination via domestic services from other parts of Australia.

“Chinese New Year looks set to attract around 20,000 visitors into the region with many arriving on the China Eastern services as well as China Southern and Cathay Pacific charters.”

It may be that Chinese New Year gives a temporary boost to tourism, but I’m unsure if it will have any long-term impact. Chinese tourism in Australia has certainly grown impressively in recent years, but has started to decline in recent months, as covered by Pete Faulkner:

Chinese visitor numbers fall again

Furthermore, airport passenger numbers at Cairns airport don’t appear to suggest a tourism boom is in the making in Cairns. Here’s a nice chart from the latest CairnsWatch publication produced by Rick Carr of Herron Todd White Cairns, showing a decline in international terminal passenger numbers and reasonable but unspectacular growth in domestic terminal passenger numbers at Cairns Airport:


Mark Beath at Loose Change is also keeping an eye on Cairns airport passenger numbers:

Eclipse stalls airport growth

So it may be overly optimistic to expect a Chinese tourism boom for Cairns, given recent data haven’t been very encouraging.

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3 Responses to Chinese tourism boom for Cairns?

  1. Mark Beath says:

    Domestic passenger number growth did pick up again in December compared to the previous year after the effect of the 2012 total eclipse washed through. The International terminal was weaker though despite China Eastern recommencing direct flights in November.

    I’m not sure how Rick pieces together the international numbers and haven’t been back to revisit this after a query to the airport. The international numbers since 2012 lump together domestic passengers on international flights with transits. These can be reasonably substantial in Cairns and it wasn’t clear to me how to correlate the stats properly with previous historical data.

    However it is difficult to ascertain any significant impact that stands out of the direct flights from China so far in the international terminal numbers. These were initially introduced as part of a plan with government subsidy to induce flights.

    The recent weakness from China has been attributed to the impact of legal changes in China on package tours. This was flagged by TA although doesn’t appear to have been widely known or perhaps the impact has been larger than expected. Will be interesting to see to what extent that is a one-off and any trend recovery.

  2. Mark Beath says:

    Sorry a quick check and correction the direct China Eastern flights from Shanghai to Cairns were suspended in August but didn’t recommence in November as I stated and had been what was announced. They have only recently recommenced after our New Year on January 7th. They initially commenced at the end of October 2012.

    A revisit also throws up some differently presented numbers posted from the Airport to better break down international and domestic passengers which are better than what I downloaded last July. These correlate with the CairnsWatch graphs posted. Will update a post on that later.

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