I rise today to congratulate Cairns Airport on punching well above its weight and breaking the record of total passenger numbers. Some 4.3 million passengers passed through the airport in the last financial year, and we are on target to exceed 4.55 million passengers this financial year. This is the largest number yet achieved through this wonderful facility. To put that into perspective, this is the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Sydney coming to visit our fair city of 150,000 people in one year. Madam Speaker, if you have not already done so, you and your friends from Sydney should consider doing so in the coming winter to escape the cold.
The record was driven by growth through the domestic terminal, which is great to see. Cairns has done it tough over recent years and it is heartening that domestic visitors are now returning in very significant numbers. December is traditionally a busy month domestically, with locals travelling away for the festive season and visitors coming to Cairns for their holidays. Local hotels have reported a very good level of occupancy over the Christmas-New Year period and Port Douglas is really getting back on its feet with a buzzing winter season coming up.
International numbers though the airport were slightly down, mainly due to the chopping and changing of some international services, but the pointers are for continued healthy growth during 2015 as a result of more convenient international connections being established and a more competitive Australian dollar. Considering we are not a capital city, our airport is a phenomenon. We are serviced by 15 carriers and can fly direct to Auckland, Port Moresby, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Osaka and Guam.
From the end of March we will be able to fly directly from Cairns to Bali. And from the end of May, SilkAir will offer us direct flights to Singapore. Singapore is truly the gateway to Asia. The tentacles of Changi Airport reach to more than 200 cities around the world.
The new flights will equate to up to 20,000 extra passengers and an economic injection of $14 million annually. There is no doubt that this will open up a whole new world for local businesses. An editorial from the Cairns Post at that time stated:
“Cairns now has stronger links to markets that were once far-off and logistically unfeasible. The Middle East and many major European cities are just two flights away, giving local operators more opportunity to harvest potential buyers and clients in lucrative markets.
“The tyranny of distance is less of an obstacle now.”
Cairns Airport sits just six kilometres from the city centre. I know you have been there, Madam Speaker, many times. The airport is an integral part of the community and a vital supporter of our tourism industry—connecting the world with the Great Barrier Reef and our beautiful Daintree Rainforest. This year they have worked with industry to launch a new tourism campaign called, '101 things to do in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef'. It is a long list, ranging from sky diving to scuba diving, horse racing to cane toad racing, and cruises to feed crocodiles. But it is only the tip of the iceberg, highlighting the endless activities available once you step off the plane and into that warm embrace that we call Cairns.
Just the other year, Cairns Airport underwent a $200 million redevelopment—a redevelopment that won a Queensland Master Builders Association award for best tourism and hospitality project. At the same time, it was awarded Major Airport of the Year in the 2013 Australian Airports Association National Airport Industry Awards. In December last year, Airport Operations General Manager Kate McCreery-Carr received the Australian Airports Association individual award for airport excellence in a major airport. Well done, Kate; your leadership and determination has certainly, well and truly, been noticed.
I am going to end by saying that, as we look ahead to another freezing winter here in the south, I am thankful that I am able to head back to the sun, sand, beach and rainforest in Cairns. I am not rubbing it in; I am saying that the invitation is there for my colleagues, their families and their constituents to visit us at any time. Our airport has certainly proved it is well able to cope with the ever-increasing interest in Far North Queensland.
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