Wild weather and dodgy highway lead to less tourists

WILD weather, a horror stretch of highway and competing countries all combined to drag international visitors away from our shores in 2013, latest data from Tourism Queensland has revealed.

TQ's year-ending snapshot of international visitor data unearthed concerning trends for the Southern Great Barrier Reef region, incorporating Gladstone and Agnes Water.

Foreign visitors, averaging 19 days a stay, were down 2.6% from 2012-2013, while holiday visitors were also down 2.3% for the same period.

GAPDL chief executive Glenn Churchill said there were a number of factors which had played a part in last year's downturn.

"Weather and driving/road conditions have played a part in decreasing visitor numbers," Mr Churchill said.

"Also the Southern Great Barrier Reef is still an emerging destination which is not yet as well known internationally as other more established destinations (such as the Gold Coast).

Interestingly, while the New Zealand visitor market dropped significantly, with 22.9% less Kiwis visiting the region in 2013 than in 2012, United Kingdom tourists were flocking to the reef's lesser known southern areas, with a 21.8% increase in UK visitors.

Mr Churchill said campaigns from other destinations around the globe may have contributed to the partial loss of the New Zealand market.

"Weather conditions were one factor, however it was significant promotion from other international destinations that took place during this time that also had an adverse effect," he said.

Lady Musgrave Cruises marketing manager Rob Moore said his organisation had not experienced the brunt of the downturn last year, recording steady growth in spite of the regional trend.

"Over the last 12 months, especially from September onwards, it's been a good, steady growth of people," Mr Moore said.

"We've had a huge increase from the Chinese market... the Chinese market's getting a little more sophisticated."

Mr Churchill reminded locals that tourism was "everybody's business", not just a matter of what GAPDL would be doing, as it continued its campaign to attract people to the area.

GAPDL is undertaking a joint campaign with Tourism and Events Queensland to promote the Southern Great Barrier Reef.