Brexit could be to blame for drop in international visitors
BREXIT could be to blame for a drop in international visitor numbers to the Fraser Coast.
That is the view of Fraser Coast Tourism and Events general manager, Martin Simons.
Speaking to the Chronicle after National Visitor Survey figures were released by Tourism Research Australia yesterday, Mr Simons said domestic visitor numbers were up while international tourism figures had dropped in the region, and across the state.
This is despite hopes the "Harry and Meghan" effect would take hold, attracting overseas visitors after the royal couple visited the region last year.
"Overall across Queensland, total international visitation was flat year-on-year with holiday visitation down 1.4 per cent," Mr Martin said.
"The ongoing debacle over Britain's exit from the European Union has continued to depress European visitation which was another 1 per cent down across Queensland in this survey period."
Tourist numbers from Europe were down 11 per cent for the year and 0.8 per cent for the three-year trend.
The largest European drops were from Germany and the United Kingdom, down 4.8 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively over the three years.
Despite numbers dropping, total international visitor spend was up by almost 10 per cent to $46.1 million.
This was due to average international nights showing a thre per cent improvement to 5.1 nights, which drove increased spend per night and spend per visit by the international sector.
Things looked healthy on the domestic side of the market, Mr Simons said.
According to the survey figures, total overnight domestic visitation to the region in the year to June was 749,000.
This was up six per cent on the three-year trend, with visitor spend of $390 million for the year down slightly on an annual basis but 13 per cent stronger over the three years.
Total overnight visitor spend for the year on the Fraser Coast was just over $439m.
Mr Simons said the figures showed the Fraser Coast was attracting the drive market, with strong visitor growth from Brisbane and other parts of south-east Queensland.
Brisbane visitation was up 13.4 per cent on the three-year trend in the year to June, contributing to an overall domestic intrastate visitor growth of 6.8 per cent.
The Fraser Coast continued to be a popular destination for our southern neighbours.
"There are not many places in Australia where you can step off a plane after a 90-minute flight from Sydney to a reef, wilderness or whale experience at your doorstep," he said.
Mr Simons said there had been a late start to the annual migration of RV travellers because of the Federal Election, but it appeared that though they had been later to arrive, visitors had stayed in the region longer.
"It has been a solid year," he said.
Mr Simons said the second half of the year was always the strongest for the region, with warmer weather, whale watching, school holidays and a variety of events bringing people to the region.
Two big events attracted thousands of people to the region in the past month.
About 3000 visitors came to Hervey Bay for the Joeys Mini World Cup, while 350 people were part of the national Model T Ford tour in Maryborough.
Mr Simons estimated the Joeys Mini World Cup was worth between $1.5 million and $2 million to the Fraser Coast economy.
He said it was harder to put a price tag on the Model T Fords national tour, but it was clear classic car events were growing in popularity.
"There's big business in classic car events," he said.
Mr Simons said the beauty of classic car events was there was a ready-made population of people ready to attend and support them.
He said improved accessibility, thanks to regular flights from Brisbane and upgrades to the Bruce Highway, was also influencing people's choices to come to the Fraser Coast.
Holiday visitation to the Fraser Coast of 412,000 represented 55 per cent of total domestic visitation, with visiting friends and relatives adding up to 244,000, one third of the total.
Not everyone was having the easiest time on the tourism front.
Bobbie Hayter, manager of the Spirit of Hervey Bay, said the whale watching season wasn't as busy as they would have expected.
She said increased competition from whale watching operators in other parts of the country were taking part of Hervey Bay's market.
"There's been heaps of whales, we've had good interaction through the season, we just haven't had as many people as we would like, even during the school holidays," Ms Hayter said.
"We know we're the best whale watching capital in the world, it's a different experience in Hervey Bay.
"It's about us pushing that message and people understanding that."
In other parts of south-east Queensland, the whale watching experience was vastly different, Ms Hayter said.
"For a start you're not out in the open sea, there isn't the same weather conditions," she said.
"Here, whales come in to stay, play and rest and they like interacting with the boats."