Ecotourism in far-northern Australia gets much needed economy boost

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 15, 2019
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SYDNEY, March 15 (Xinhua) -- A new ecotourism experience in Australia's far-north State of Queensland will reinvigorate the numbers of visitors and pump over 200 million U.S. dollars into the local economy, government ministers said on Friday.

An extension of the 94 km Wangetti Trail, including a mangrove walk and crocodile sighting area, will showcase the region's natural beauty and attract an additional 11,000 international visitors, state parliament member for Cook, Cynthia Lui said.

"It will satisfy the needs of visitors looking for an attractive day trip option to Port Douglas, as well as putting Queensland on the map for respectful ecotourism experiences," she said.

The announcement came shortly after China Southern Airlines revealed they would temporarily suspend direct flights between China's southern city Guangzhou and Australia's northeastern city Cairns -- the main airport hub of the region -- citing a review of their international routes.

Direct flights to Cairns, which services visitors to the Great Barrier Reef and the world's oldest rain forest, will be paused from late April to October after which the future of the route is unclear.

China comprises a large portion of visitors to the region and Australia, and while Chinese visitation to the State of Queensland grew in 2018, tourist numbers to the far-north of the state declined 7.6 percent to 201,000.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chief Executive Pip Close told Xinhua that the lower numbers represent a changing type of Chinese tourists.

"Chinese travelers are significantly changing their travel behavior, preferences and spending patterns which are being reflected in the visitors coming to Cairns," Close said.

While previously larger numbers of visitors would come for short periods of time, TTNQ is now targeting guests who want to explore the region and stay longer than the two nights favored by group tours.

"The independent travelers are seeking outdoor activities that enable them to explore our World Heritage areas," Close said.

"The world-class Wangetti Trail will add further appeal to the region's reputation as an outdoor leisure destination."

An attraction which has been catering to Chinese visitors for decades is the Rainforestation Nature Park -- offering amphibious vehicle tours, an indigenous aboriginal experience and Koala exhibit.

Rainforestation assistant manager Shaun Grant told Xinhua that Cairns offers a more "authentic" Australian experience which the new generation of Chinese tourists is seeking -- with the added bonus of five-star options as well.

"That's something that's progressed very quickly, I would say ten years ago, a lot of our Chinese market were interested in more high-end leisure products," Grant said.

"We're now seeing a growth in wanting to have more of a genuine experience where they can get face to face with Australians and up close to wildlife."

Grant would like to see a continuation of direct flights between China and Cairns, as well as some certainty of ongoing access, to allow the industry to invest and grow.

"Direct flights are the key to us growing this market," he said, "at the moment we are at the mercy of market forces and the airlines obviously have their requirements to meet as well."

"But, we're confident that those involved in these complex decisions are working with our best interest at heart -- as well as making sure the Chinese guests have access to the markets they want as well." Enditem

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