Cairns Airport international recovery focused on core markets of Singapore, New Zealand and Japan
Cairns Airport is located at the entry of not one, but two, World Heritage areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. These locations encompass a variety of tourism opportunities, including interaction with native animals, scenic experiences, and outdoors adventure activities.
“Cairns Airport serves as a central transportation hub to regional areas such as Cape York and Torres Strait Islands and provides fantastic opportunities for interstate and overseas visitors to experience the diversity and richness of First Nations cultures, knowledges and histories. Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the oldest living cultures on earth,” says Richard Barker, CEO Cairns Airport.
The climate in Far North Queensland makes it a popular destination for travellers, particularly during the winter months. “As the world continues to open, it is clear that travellers who would typically go overseas for their mid-year break have instead chosen to visit Cairns and the Far North,” Barker explains. “During the recent school holiday period, throughput at Cairns Airport exceed pre-pandemic domestic passenger levels. The increased number of visitors has also been reported by hotels, tour operators and restaurants.”
Domestically, Cairns Airport is connected with every state and territory capital except Hobart, Tasmania which it sees as an opportunity, while also hoping to build on some of the new services that came out of COVID such as Newcastle. “Internationally, our recovery is based on our core markets of Singapore, New Zealand and Japan, as well as Papua New Guinea, and these services are all now back on our route map,” says Barker. “With aircraft technology evolving we see more markets in Asia being accessible such as Vietnam and South Korea as well regional ports in Japan. We do hold out long-term aspirations to see direct services from North America and Europe in the future.”
Air New Zealand route significantly enhances “one-stop, seamless connectivity from Los Angeles or San Francisco via Auckland”
Cairns Airport recently welcomed the return of Air New Zealand services to Auckland, with the airline operating three weekly frequencies on the route. More than 38,000 visitors from New Zealand travelled to the region in pre-pandemic 2019, staying for an average of 10.5 nights and injecting almost $67 million into the economy.
“Direct Air New Zealand flights between Auckland and Cairns show a clear vote of confidence in our region and mark a vital step in the recovery of the Far North’s economy,” says Barker. “These flights will undoubtedly be a welcome addition to travellers’ itineraries, both for those seeking a warmer, tropical holiday in the Far North and for local adrenaline seekers keen to hit the slopes in New Zealand. They will also enable easier and more frequent travel for those who have been separated from loved ones during the peak of the pandemic. Importantly, this flight route significantly enhances travel options to and from North America. One-stop, seamless connectivity from Los Angeles or San Francisco via Auckland opens the pathway to see more visitors in the Far North from the USA.”
Cairns Airport also welcomed the inaugural Singapore Airlines service in March, with the carrier’s network providing connections to the United Kingdom, Europe and North America, as well as Asian markets such as South Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia. “Since this route recommenced, we have seen a growing number of international travellers visit the Far North and locals who have been waiting to go overseas have been able to do so with more ease,” Barker comments.
Jetstar launches “momentous” eight weekly flights to Japan
Most recently, Jetstar began operating year-round direct flights between Japan and Cairns eight times per week from 20 July. “The first flight between Cairns and Tokyo is particularly momentous, as it is the first Jetstar aircraft to leave Australia for Japan since March 2020,” says Barker.
Jetstar will operate five flights per week between Narita International Airport (Tokyo) and Cairns, and a further three flights between Kansai International Airport (Osaka) and Cairns.
“We know Tropical North Queensland is a highly sought-after destination for visitors from Japan and we expect to see a welcome injection of tourists due to these flights, and as confidence around international travel continues to grow,” Barker explains.
Budget domestic carrier Bonza has also flagged plans to operate non-stop flights from Cairns to the Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton and Mackay. These routes are currently unserved by non-stop services.
“We work closely with our state and regional tourism partners to support new routes with marketing and promotional activity to raise awareness of new markets and support the entry of new airlines into the region,” Barker adds.
International terminal upgrades and domestic taxiway resurfacing
Meanwhile, plans are well underway for a series of upgrades to Cairns Airport’s international terminal, with work expected to begin later this year. “We are also welcoming a raft of new retail options in the domestic terminal and expect the majority of these new stores to be trading by Christmas,” Barker explains. “Sections of our domestic taxiway are scheduled for resurfacing works from October, and a series of upgrades continue in the General Aviation precinct. Demolition of some older, derelict buildings will begin this month and two new buildings will be constructed to enhance the precinct and provide opportunities for new and existing stakeholders.”