NVS Uncertainty

The latest National Visitor Survey was out yesterday which wasn’t positive in the Far North as posted at Conus: Domestic tourism continues to dive in TNQ

The Cairns Post has reported a defensive response from Alex de Waal at TTNQ: Tourism Tropical North Queensland refutes falling domestic visitor claim

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive officer Alex de Waal pointed to a disclaimer on the report telling readers to treat the results with caution due to “some unexpectedly high growth rates” in recent quarters.

“We’re at odds with these statistics. We’re doing further research into it at the moment. There’s lots of evidence contrary to what the (national visitor survey) statistics are indicating,” he said.

Cairns Airport’s records show domestic arrivals for 2016 were up by 208,130 to 4.2 million, a 5.2 per cent increase.

Skyrail managing director Craig Pocock refuted the survey results, noting a “very strong year domestically”.

“We’ve seen good growth from all states,” he said.

A Tourism Research Australia spokesman said the 2014 and 2015 figures were under review and were likely overestimated for the Far North.

“The issue in the (survey) referred to in our disclaimer does appear to have an effect in the case of Tropical North Queensland,” he said.

I did post a cynical response here to the previous NVS: Why I distrust National Visitor Survey data. Airport data is an incomplete comparison and domestic traffic also includes international passengers. However I would have thought there should be some observable correlation when there are very large or volatile movements.

What everyone seems to neglect when it comes to the NVS is that it is a telephone survey with a statistical margin of error regardless of any other issues. As we move down progressively from the national data to smaller subsets the margin increases. Details can be found here: National Visitor Survey Methodology


Leap down at Airport

Cairns Airport:

2% growth trend for January and February

The 2016 leap year and change of month of Lunar New Year impacted the total monthly change performance in January and February. After normalising for these two factors, there was 2% passenger growth at Cairns for January and February combined.

Last years leap year and lunar phases were always likely to result in a negative month but was probably weaker than expected in February down 6.8% before any adjustment. If only the Airport had discovered the leap year last February when it actually was and boosted reported results at that time. Pro-rata leap year normalised data here at Cairnseconomy/Tourism/CairnsAirport over the last year and updated for these numbers indicates a decline around 4.7% this year compared to last February (ex transits and transfers).

Despite normalisation the growth rate has been trending down with the 3 month moving average now at a two year low. It is also the lowest growth rate for the combined Jan/Feb two month period covering the lunar new year since 2010.


It will be interesting to see the March numbers which will be coming off the back of double digit growth last year.

Cairns Post: Cairns Airport reports fewer flights in February, but growth still up for new year.


Rental Data to December 2016

Rental data for the 2016 December quarter from the RTA shows the rental gap between Cairns and Townsville widened further. Rental data is for new bonds lodged during the quarter.

rent premium

That is 3br houses. The gap for 4br houses is also $80 and 2br units $70. Meanwhile, there is some indication further south that the Mackay rollercoaster may be approaching the end of the ride.


The declines in y-o-y growth mostly appear to have worked through in Mackay. Despite the relative outperformance growth in Cairns has been anaemic in the most recent years.


Comparative data from RTA places Cairns well above regional centres outside SEQ. Gladstone here is a shocker with a median 3br rent of just $180 for new bonds during the quarter a decline of 40% over the last two years. However, Pete Wargent sees some positive signs: Gladdy nears a bottom.


RTA also provide data on total bonds held including this comparative regional data for general tenancies. Central West is meaningless as easily the smallest region and growth shown represents only about a hundred rental bonds. Brisbane comprises 48% of total rentals so is the dominant influence on Queensland growth of 3.6% for the year to 31 December 2016. More than double estimates of population growth.


The lowly Far North position here would overwhelmingly represent Cairns. May require further digging in the RTA data.

Airport spins roundaphobia

Round numbers are always a PR favourite and Cairns Airport obliged with its commentary for January:

The average daily passenger numbers at Cairns were 1,000 higher than last January.

For the more statistically minded that was an increase of 7.8% (ex transits) on the previous year.

airport4Source: Cairns Airport

With some controversy and criticism around the cancellation of new year charter flights from China in 2017 there is also commentary on the impact of Korean charters:

The Asian Lunar New Year was celebrated on January 28th, but last year it fell on February 8th. In Korea, the Lunar New Year is celebrated as Seollal. The demand for Seollal travel helped successfully fill Jin Air’s charter flights.

Adjusted for comparable dates around the fall of Lunar New Year, there were 18% more passengers on the Korean charters than last year’s charters from mainland China. Travel industry feedback from Korea indicates that most Jin Air travellers had a 4 or 6 night holiday and they only visited Tropical North Queensland when in Australia.

The monthly trends around this time can always be volatile with shifts in the timing of the lunar new year so probably best to wait for February numbers. This year February will also have a day less after the leap year last year.

Further graphs and BITRE data have been updated at the Tourism\Cairns Airport page.