Airport prepares for visitor influx
CAIRNS Airport and tourism leaders are set to welcome an influx of visitors, with the latest domestic passenger numbers on the up and forecast to rise further once the border reopens on Friday.
An airport spokeswoman said more school holiday flights from Brisbane contributed to a 47 per cent growth in domestic passenger numbers last week, compared with the previous week. Airport chief executive Norris Carter said they were excited about welcoming more travellers after going from "about 2000 passengers six weeks ago to nearly 20,000 a week" to combat a decline in recent times.
The airport's data shows domestic passengers dropped by a 90.2 per cent from 320,166 to 31,335 from June 2019 to 2020.
The numbers were even more severe in April and May this year, at 10,643 and 13,426, respectively.
"We don't see the airlines' future bookings, but the message we're getting is that sales have been really successful," Mr Carter said.
"We're seeing great week-on-week growth. It's hard to forecast too far in advance because the situation's changing so much, but we're certainly seeing airlines perform with additional capacity."
Mr Carter said being a part of a nationwide airport and airline coalition that introduced COVID-safe guidelines for air travel meant visitors would have confidence in taking the journey north: "The important thing for us at the moment is for the flights to get filled up."
Similarly, Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Mark Olsen said the response in flight bookings for late August to October had been "really strong".
"We knew July would be a little tougher for us because the border was not opened for school holidays," he said.
Mr Olsen said more visitors into the region would help combat a forecast loss of more than $2bn in visitor spending by year's end. "We're looking at about a $1bn impact already on the destination," he said.
A Qantas spokeswoman there had been extra intrastate services during the school holidays, with more to come once the border reopens.
"This would increase to 12 return services for the week commencing July 13, before returning to seven weekly services from July 27," she said.
On Friday, water cannons will welcome a first interstate flight to Cairns in 15 weeks.
Originally published as Airport prepares for visitor influx as passenger numbers rise