There’s a lot of debate going on around the region about the balance between tourism popularity and sustaining the attractiveness and ‘liveability’ of the region.
One thing we have made clear over the past four years is that we favour a tourism strategy that reflects our unique selling points – our natural attractions, our laid-back lifestyle and our premium tourism and food products.
There are plenty of ‘mass tourism’ destinations around Australia and the Asia Pacific. They serve a purpose and a lot of tourists like that sort of environment, but it is not what we are aiming for with the Sunshine Coast ‘brand’.
Our target is very much the discerning traveller, and the success of the strategy was highlighted in the latest International Visitor Survey.
While we appreciated the 0.9 per cent increase in international visitors in the year to March 2019 (compared with the year before), the most important figure was the 20.5 per cent growth in expenditure to $277.2m.
This record international expenditure number was built principally on growth in visitor numbers from higher-yielding markets such as the UK, USA, and Europe.
Tourism Research Australia, which compiles the figures for the IVS, estimated that 309,000 overseas travellers visited the Sunshine Coast in the 12 months ending March 2019, which included holiday visitor growth of 1.6 per cent.
Star performers on the international stage were the UK (up 6.2 per cent), the USA (up 13.2 per cent) and New Zealand, our largest inbound market, which grew 5.9 per cent to 70,000 for the year.
Significantly, our direct New Zealand flights to Sunshine Coast Airport recommence next week and we believe the popularity of these services can provide a conduit to a major expansion of services across the Tasman when the new runway opens next year.
Large-scale campaigns in New Zealand and the UK (centred around last year’s Commonwealth Games) generated the extra demand over the past year, while a campaign leveraging the high-profile of the Irwin family and Australia Zoo in the American market helped deliver the record USA visitor numbers.
Working with internationally recognised figures like the Irwins has provided us with incredible profile for the region, and we have also benefited greatly from partnerships with Tourism and Events Queensland and Tourism Australia to deliver the Sunshine Coast message to both established markets such as New Zealand, Europe and the UK, and emerging markets like south-east Asia.