When we start talking about tourism, I have to say it is something that I have a little bit of an understanding of, given that my seat is recognised as the largest employer, economically, in the country.
My little corner of Australia is certainly punching well above its weight. In early June the Cairns Airport celebrated receiving its five millionth passenger in a 12-month period-the first time ever. The latest figures from Tourism Research Australia show that more than two million domestic tourists came to Tropical North Queensland and spent $2.279 billion in the last 12 months.
Visitor numbers have increased by 14 per cent from the previous year, while spending grew by 24 per cent and visitor nights were up by 16 per cent. The growth of domestic and international visitors in my region outstripped that of both Queensland and Australia for 2015-16.
At the TTNQ AGM in late October, CEO Alex de Waal said tourism was fuelling the tremendous momentum of positive community sentiment in Tropical North Queensland, and tourism continues to drive local jobs and economic growth.
It is fantastic that people are choosing our beautiful region to visit and spend their money in, but it does not happen on its own. It is because of the hard work of so many people in the tourism industry who make visitor experiences unforgettable-the airline staff, taxi and shuttle bus drivers, hotel receptionists, restaurant wait staff, reef boat cruise operators, cleaners, booking agents, car hire staff, bar staff, retail assistants and the list goes on and on.
It is also those at the top of their field who drive tourism development and investment and ensure that we have a broad range of offerings for our visitors. I would like to take the opportunity to mention a few of the highly respected, innovative and dedicated tourism leaders in Leichhardt who were recognised in the recent Tropical North Queensland tourism industry excellence awards celebration. CaPTA Group chairman, Charles Woodward, was recognised as a life member; long-term hotelier Peter Blackburn was also recognised as a life member; Skyrail Rainforest Cableway director, Ken Chapman, won the award for outstanding contribution as an individual; Mossman Gorge Centre general manager, Ben Pratt, won the award for young achiever excellence; Cathay Pacific, which is one of the international airlines flying into Cairns, won the chairman's award for excellence; and the Big 4 Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park won the award for innovation excellence in tropical north Queensland.
Nationally, Leichhardt is the electorate most highly dependent on tourism, which is responsible for 20 per cent of its employment and 20 per cent of its economic output. People say that we need to diversify away from tourism, but I think we need to recognise that other industries actually rely very heavily on tourism and get very significant benefits from tourism. In fact, tourism is very much an enabler in our community and is a base for most of the other industries that we see, whether it be the fishing industry, agriculture, aviation or even our maritime sustainment and maintenance industry. All of those feed very much into the tourism industry. It would have a big impact if we were to lose the servicing for the reef tourism fleet, which is the largest in the country. We also have education tourism, which is becoming a major opportunity in our area. Tropical sports conditioning is another area that I have been working on very closely, and the list goes on.
According to QTIC, the benefits of a strong tourism industry are considerable. Far more than just a fleeting holiday season phenomenon, tourism can drive a whole lot of opportunities, including employment right across all sectors of the community and business-investment, boosting real estate values, international and domestic educational facilities, business activity, stimulating exports. It creates skills and expertise across a wide range of sectors. It also creates a very livable community for our locals, and I have certainly ascertained that this has happened in my communities. I certainly commend this motion to the House.
4 MS M. L. LANDRY: To move-That this House:
1 acknowledges the northern Australians working within the tourism industry, which plays a vital role in supporting the northern Australian economy;
2 recognises that tourist spending provides further opportunities for local small businesses within the community; and
3 notes that:
a. the Government is investing in small businesses through its Jobs and Small Business Package released in the 2015 budget; and
b. this package provides small businesses, including most businesses within the tourism industry, with much needed assistance to grow and create jobs.