TOURISM: Simon Latchford says the Coast has fared well despite the impacts of the Peregian bushfires and coronavirus outbreak. Photos: Philip Fong/Lachie Millard/Patrick Woods
TOURISM: Simon Latchford says the Coast has fared well despite the impacts of the Peregian bushfires and coronavirus outbreak. Photos: Philip Fong/Lachie Millard/Patrick Woods

How the Coast will survive horror tourism season

THE Sunshine Coast's top tourism chief has revealed how the region will stay afloat despite a devastating bushfire season and the recent outbreak of a deadly virus.

Queensland's tourism industry has taken a hit as the state continues to battle the effects of both the bushfires and drought, with operators now also recording a drop in international visitor numbers due to the threat of coronavirus.

Yet Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford said despite the challenges, it wasn't an unprecedented period for both domestic and global tourism.

"The Sunshine Coast is right now still principally a domestic market, with New Zealand our largest international market," he said.

"In fact, there is the potential for growth from countries such as New Zealand, as travellers look to substitute Asian holidays for more local destinations, and with direct services from Auckland beginning in April, we could see some strong growth from that market."

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To mitigate the negative effects coronavirus could have on the industry, Mr Latchford said marketing the Coast to domestic visitors was vital.

"Already this year we have run campaign activations in key domestic and drive markets, including full body wraps of a Melbourne tram, advertising at Sydney Domestic Airport and bus advertising in Brisbane CBD," he said.

"Following the campaign, the Visit Sunshine Coast website recorded a year-on-year increase of website users from Melbourne.

"These campaign activities were complemented by a television commercial running in key drive markets and supplemented by a number of key initiatives across our media, business events and international marketing teams, including targeted events in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland.

"So while it is a challenging time for the Australian and global tourism industry, we believe there are still some great opportunities for destinations like the Sunshine Coast."

Making up only a small percentage of visitors to the Coast, Mr Latchford said tapping into the Asian and Chinese market in particular would also help the region's industry thrive.

"Our region has strong aspirations to significantly develop new international market opportunities, in line with the development of our new international-ready airport," he said.

"The fact, however, is that most of Australia is likely to be caught up in the current contagion - even if it is indirectly - so we've taken the attitude that to be forewarned is to be forearmed and we have been very proactive in growing our profile in key markets for the Sunshine Coast.

"History has shown that our industry is resilient, and by continuing to work together as Team Sunshine Coast, we are confident we will be able to achieve the very best possible outcome in this challenging climate."