Topics: Cairns wins bid to host major business event; Cairns tourism

Simon Birmingham: Great to be here in beautiful tropical north Queensland, yes indeed for trade tourism and investment. Thank you.

Journalist: Minister, what brings you to Cairns?

Simon Birmingham: Well I’m here to meet and speak with tourism industry and spend time with the with my great mate Warren Entsch and to have Entschy ensure that Queensland and Tropical North Queensland’s tourism providers have every opportunity to ensure that as Tourism Minister, I hear about their priorities, the opportunities to back them, to take the tourism sector in this great part of Australia and ensure that it’s even stronger and better into the future. Particularly…

Journalist: Have we put the Christmas list in?

Simon Birmingham: The thing about Warren Entsch is he chews your ear as a minister every week of the year, not just when you visit Queensland, but he makes sure you always know what the priorities for north Queensland are. And as Tourism Minister of course, it’s particularly critical that we have a regular and frequent dialogue because this region is not only such a strong contributor to Australia’s tourism industry in terms of what happens here, but also it’s an icon that drives tourism to the rest of the country. And so, a strong North Queensland, helps to make a strong tourism industry right across Australia. So one of the things we’re really thrilled about today is that we’ve been able to announce that our government’s $12 million dollar business events fund is attracting another conference in molecular biology here to Queensland, to Cairns, that will bring 1200 delegates here in 2021. That’s going to be another huge lift in terms of getting more business and conference delegates here, and that just creates a spin off in terms of word-of-mouth tourism for many years to come.

Journalist: Those people coming in, you’d hope they try to stick around for a couple of days and bring their partners with them?

Simon Birmingham: The leverage off conferences and business events is huge in terms of people staying extra days and coming back later on and that’s really why this is such a key part of our overall tourism mission. It of course ensures that we go out to the world with some government backing, compete successfully to bring conferences from other parts of the world to be hosted here. And this is an initiative of our government, creating this fund, going out to the world bidding for conferences and it’s going to bring a new conference 1200 plus plant molecular biologists, here to Cairns. I’m sure they’re fun loving people who of course will be seeing some of the most unique ecosystems in the world in terms of the reef the rainforest and that of course is why this is such a great location to host such a conference.

Journalist: When are they coming?

Simon Birmingham: 2021.

Journalist:  What part did the government play in it, what was the path to get them across the line to get them here? Was it the government, you know pat yourselves on the back, who else has contributed to that being such a success?

Simon Birmingham: These are always partnership activities and so I pay credit to those from Tourism Queensland, local tourism and convention authorities here in tropical North Queensland who are all part of the big team. But we stepped up as a federal government to put cash on the table and to help make sure that our bid was enticing, and that those who organised a conference like this can see that it’s good value for money to bring those tourists here. It’s a small investment that we make on behalf of taxpayers to get a very big return for the nation and for this region in terms of jobs created, economic activity, and then that lasting word-of- mouth benefit in terms of the tourism sector.

Journalist: In the shopfront of things how do we get a benefit out of it? What happens, sort of there’s extra people put on to do laundry, it really does go through the line doesn’t it?

Simon Birmingham: Twelve hundred conference delegates here, they of course will bring friends or family with them, they’ll spend money while they’re here not just on the conference but on other activities. They’ll often stay an extra couple of days either side of the conference, by then the real bang for buck benefit in the years to come is once they’ve had a great time in Cairns and the surrounding regions they go back home, they tell their mates they tell their family they’ll come back, that’s really what drives it of course. To make sure they get that word-of-mouth feedback that value adds your investment in terms of your marketing dollars and your conference attraction dollars.

Warren Entsch: And of course you’ve got to understand that when you’ve got 1200 delegates and their families, that is to say they’re looking at a minimum of 1200 rooms or hotel rooms, or in fact it’s much more significant than the 1200. They’re looking at eating out every night, so you know the restaurant and the catering industry, our hospitality industry, our entertainment here will get a benefit from it. And of course you also get a major benefit for all of the other reef excursions and the land-based stuff like our aquarium and all the other land-based tourism events, Skyrail, and you know even Hartley’s Adventures, people drive up to the Daintree so they hire vehicles. All of those things add to benefit from one of these events and you know 1200 delegates is a very, very significant event.

Can I just say to you, look it was great to have the minister here because you know we had a good cross section of our tourism industry here, from aviation to our marine industry, to our hotel representation, to wildlife parks, the Chamber of Commerce, there was a range here and it was great for the Minister to hear firsthand, the opportunities and the challenges that we have. Issues such as there’s the, it’s very timely the ACCC’s handing down of the gouging if you like and the lack of competition in insurance. He’s now been able to hear firsthand from operators the major problems associated with that and that was very, very important that he could do that. But he was also listening to other things here that are the operators of the issue of visas for a workforce here and of course very positive news from the Chamber of Commerce that they are very well advanced in their preparation of a submission for Adama for our region which hopefully will be completed in the next two to three weeks. It’s great for the minister to know about this, so that he can then actually give his support when it goes down for consideration.

There are also challenges in relation to our marine park operators and you know with the changes now that are happening in GBRMPA it’s been a great opportunity for the Tourism Minister because it’s not the GBRMPA, while it’s operated through the environment portfolio, it is a very significant role is recognized that is being played by the tourism operators and it’s great for the minister to be able to do that. Aviation was another one and the opportunities that we have in this place for aviation, but the need to continue to be looking at bringing in new operators. And another one, you know you don’t think about it in tourism, but of course there’s horticulture and agriculture, particularly in our tablelands because bringing those products into Cairns to fill the bellies of those wide-bodied aircraft is what encourages them to come here in the first instance, because they can come in full and they can go out full. So all of these issues were raised here today and it was a great opportunity for the Minister to hear these things and of course the positive stories that we’ve been sharing as well. And so you know it was great to have you here Simon, I know you’re not a stranger to this place and we certainly look forward to working with you well into the future.