Tourism has played a vital role in the Atherton Tablelands economy for many years and it is the region’s natural features and historical value which attract tourists from near and far. Scenic mountains, rainforests, lakes and waterfalls lie adjacent to outback landscapes of the west and complement the region’s natural, geological and mining history which together, provide a distinctive combination of tourism products catering for a broad market.
Over the past few decades, the tourism industry has further developed as a means of diversification from declines in other industry sectors (including the timber, tobacco and dairy industries) and accelerated as a result of an increased tourism market focus in Cairns and the broader Tropical North Queensland region.
The future development of the region’s tourism potential centres on its outstanding natural environment, pristine areas complemented by World Heritage Listed Rainforests, its proximity to Cairns with its 2.2 million visitors and easy to recognise core experiences. Development of the sector is enabled by the region’s demonstrated tourism visitation and extremely high satisfaction levels and growing engagement between the tourism sector and traditional industries.
The Tropical North Queensland (TNQ) region is best known as the gateway to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforests and encompasses areas Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait in the north, Cairns, Port Douglas, Daintree, Cape Tribulation, Cooktown, Gulf Savannah, Atherton Tablelands and Mission Beach and south to Cardwell.
TNQ is Australia’s third most important holiday destination after Sydney and Melbourne, and remains Australia’s most popular holiday destination for Japanese visitors.
In 2012, there were 2,167,000 international and domestic overnight visitors to TNQ, an increase of 4% compared to the previous year (TQ 2013).
Visitors to TNQ spent nearly $2.8 billion in the (year ending March 2012), making it the leading non-capital city tourism destination by value in Australia (DNRM 2012b).
There were 3,973 tourism related businesses in TNQ (as at June 2011), of which 9 in 10 are small businesses employing less than 20 employees. The value of tourism to TNQ equates to $11,000 per person, per year and one in 5 jobs in this region is Tourism.
The Atherton Tablelands is classified as a sub-region of the TNQ area and sub-regional tourism statistics are difficult to come by due to varying reasons such as a large catchment area and type of market (self-drive traveller). Tourism is traditionally a difficult industry to measure as it encompasses many different products or services shared by usual residents and, overall satisfaction is measured by the traveller.
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