English backpackers Gemma Butler, Charlie Wallbridge and Chloe Boxall visiting Townsville. Picture: Shae Beplate.
English backpackers Gemma Butler, Charlie Wallbridge and Chloe Boxall visiting Townsville. Picture: Shae Beplate.

Tourism’s unlikely new king of the north

THE north has a new tourism darling with holiday hordes flocking to Townsville.

Often overshadowed by Cairns, Port Douglas and the Whitsundays, Townsville holiday bookings leapt an incredible 275 per cent on Easter last year according to statistics from travel giant Wotif.com.

It has been a golden fortnight for tourism operators across the state with Mooloolaba (up 185 per cent), Cairns (85 per cent) and Airlie Beach (80 per cent) all experiencing huge increases in bookings via Wotif as thousands of visitors made the most of the extended break over Easter and Anzac Day worth an estimated $2 billion to the state's tourism industry.

Official data from Tourism Research Australia will not be collated for several weeks, but if hotel bookings are any guide, the figures should make pleasant reading for tourism bosses in the Townsville region, which was hit hard by cyclones and flooding earlier this year.

Wotif managing director Daniel Finch said Townsville was an underrated destination that people were clearly catching on to.

"There's an abundance of affordable, family-friendly accommodation and plenty of local activities to keep the kids entertained," he said.

"From learning about the Great Barrier Reef at the Reef HQ Aquarium to cuddling a Koala at the Billabong Sanctuary, there's so much to see and do."

English backpackers Gemma Butler, Charlie Wallbridge and Chloe Boxall visiting Townsville. Picture: Shae Beplate.
English backpackers Gemma Butler, Charlie Wallbridge and Chloe Boxall visiting Townsville. Picture: Shae Beplate.

Townsville Enterprise director of tourism Bridget Woods said some of the growth could be attributed to increased airline services to Melbourne and Port Moresby, along with one of the region's biggest-ever tourism campaigns.

She also said the Easter holiday results, boosted by the inclusion of Anzac Day and delayed dates for the NSW school term, should kickstart a golden run for the region.

"The holiday bookings for Magnetic Island over school holidays and Easter were incredibly strong and it was great to see both locals and visitors taking time out to enjoy the fantastic weather and beauty that Townsville has on offer," she said.

"We look forward to seeing these trends continue particularly as the first pieces of the Museum of Underwater Art will be installed on The Strand and off Magnetic Island in the next few months which will be a Southern Hemisphere first, our new stadium opening in early 2020, and welcoming tens of thousands of passengers from 12 cruise ships already locked in for the year."

The Slot family from The Netherlands said they heard about the "terrible" floods and were pleased to see the region recovering.

"It feels good to see that there's a lot going on again and life goes on," Laura Slot said.

The warm weather was a welcome change from the snow they left in Europe, but the humidity had them searching for swimming spots.



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