The final-quarter National Visitor Survey (NVS) figures, released today, saw the Sunshine Coast record a 10.9% increase in overnight visitor numbers for the year ending December 2014 (compared to 2013), continuing its position as one of Queensland’s fastest growing tourism regions.
The strong rise in visitor numbers contrasted with other south east Queensland destinations such as Brisbane (down 0.3% despite the G20) and Gold Coast (down 1.7%). Tropical North Queensland was up 5.6%.
The Q4 figures produced a ‘quadrella’ of quarterly increases for Sunshine Coast for 2014.
The statistics showed the Sunshine Coast attracted 2.8 million domestic visitors during 2014, with a 9.4% increase in interstate visitors, led by Melbourne, which produced a staggering 27.3% increase, and Sydney up 6.8%, delivering over $1.84 billion in revenue for the Sunshine Coast economy.
The sharp decline in petrol prices saw the revival of ‘drive’ holidays in the final quarter, with Brisbane visitors growing 20.3%, attracted by the steady stream of events that were held during the year.
Business travel – including conferences – was up 63%, but came off a low 2013 base.
Commenting on the results, Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd (SCDL) CEO, Simon Ambrose, said that the figures highlighted the importance of adapting to changing market trends and demands.
“2014 was the first year that we were able to fully deliver our new vision for the Sunshine Coast, and clearly it has resonated with travellers,” he said.
“We enjoyed record increases from the international market in 2014, but our domestic market remains the key for the Sunshine Coast, and with significantly lower petrol prices, a lower Australian dollar and significant increases in events and attractions, we grew our visitor numbers from just about every market.
“What we believe the numbers show is that Australian travellers have become far more discerning. They are looking for destinations with multi-dimensional qualities. Being on a beach and having great weather simply doesn’t cut it any more for people who have travelled extensively. We had an excellent summer season, but other coast destinations reported declining visitor numbers, despite the good weather and extensive promotions.
“The Sunshine Coast has placed a premium on its diversity over the past 12 months. Everything from the luxe experience offerings in Noosa, Mooloolaba, the Hinterland and elsewhere, through to exceptional backpacking experiences, festivals, the arts, nature, adventure and food culture.
“We aren’t a one-trick pony, and it has certainly paid off. People might come to the Sunshine Coast with the beaches top of mind, but they leave having experienced much more – providing plenty of reasons for them to return.
“We are building on that momentum. Noosa has its renowned International Food & Wine Festival in May, and the wider region will celebrate the launch of the Great Beach Drive over the next few months, which will not only highlight our beaches, but also our eco-adventure credentials, and we believe that it will have a vast impact in international markets, as well as locally.”
Mr Ambrose said that Sunshine Coast Destination was working with all the local destinations to maximise the attraction of the region.
“We are fortunate that the various areas within the Sunshine Coast – such as Caloundra, Glass House Mountains, Hinterland, Gympie and Noosa – all have their own entities and specific attractions, but together as the Sunshine Coast we offer so much more on the international and domestic markets.”
Views from Sunshine Coast operators on the 2014 tourism year:
Owner of Caloundra Holiday Centre and off-site manager of 170 holiday rental properties in the Caloundra area, Tracey Harris, said 2014 was the best year for holiday rentals in the Sunshine Coast region for the past 30 years that she has worked in the industry.
“Whilst amazing weather for most of the year has certainly been a factor, Sunshine Coast Destination has done an excellent job in promoting the region to interstate visitors.”
Director of Accom Noosa, Richard Stephens, said the accommodation rental business was experiencing positive growth from the domestic market.
“Not only have our 2014 figures seen an increase from the domestic visitors out of Sydney and Melbourne but we are also noting a trend of solid forward bookings into 2015. Marketing the region as one, and working with the Regional Tourism Organisation, Sunshine Coast Destination is essential to creating these results.”