New Commonwealth Bank (CBA) data released today shows Australians are rediscovering their desire to travel, with tourism spending in Far North Queensland helping to rejuvenate the region’s economy. According to new figures from CBA, Cairns and Far North Queensland have experienced strong growth across key sectors in the June quarter to date compared with the same period last year.

The CBA transaction data revealed hospitality venues, including bars and drinking establishments (+31 per cent) and fast food precincts (+8 per cent), saw a significant boost in tourism spending over the past quarter. Others to benefit from the domestic tourism dollar were caravan parks and campgrounds (+18 per cent), travel agencies and tour operators (+17 per cent), and accommodation and lodgings (+6 per cent). 

The CBA data comes off the back of the release of the latest passenger numbers from Cairns Airport which showed continued improvement, reflecting similar figures to March 2019 pre-Covid levels (365,031 Mar 2019 vs 360,444 Mar 2024). These latest figures bring welcome news to the region as it rebounds following Tropical Cyclone Jasper and the widespread floods of December 2023.

CBA Group Executive Business Banking Mike Vacy-Lyle said: “While the cost of living is undoubtedly on the minds of many Australians, it’s great to see that Cairns and Far North Queensland continue to be major drawcards for both domestic and international travellers, offering a vibrant yet diverse mix of nature, marine life and scenic attractions.

“As Far North Queensland is the northern gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and world heritage-listed rainforests, these natural wonders present a unique opportunity for local businesses to capitalise on consumers’ renewed enthusiasm for travel, especially as we enter peak holiday season for the state. After a challenging few years with the pandemic materially impacting the traveller economy, as well as the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Jasper, we are pleased to see the returning strength of tourism in Far North Queensland.

“The Cairns region has a diverse economy. As well as tourism, other sectors including defence, manufacturing and construction, health, education and agriculture are significant drivers of job and investment opportunities.”

CBA asset finance data shows Cairns-based businesses have stepped up their investment plans over the past 12 months, recording a 227 per cent increase in funding, predominantly driven by purchases of motor vehicles (+10 per cent) and light commercials (+186 per cent) such as utes, vans and forklifts. The new figures reveal a regional trend, with North and Far North Queensland also reporting an increase of 108 per cent in businesses financing commercial assets during the same period.

Commonwealth Bank’s Business Banking leadership team travelled to Cairns this week to meet with a number of local businesses and community leaders from Far North Queensland to discuss the issues and opportunities unique to regional Australia.

The team met with several businesses across key sectors to gain further insight into the opportunities and challenges being faced by local businesses. Business leaders told CommBank they were focused on stabilising the region’s economy and the outlook for tourism, as well as supporting future investments in infrastructure, property and housing, and the skilled workforce.

With a long history of serving regional and rural communities around Australia, CBA is committed to working in partnership with local business leaders to address these areas of opportunity and identify new ways to unlock growth.

Joined by over 40 business banking customers from across the region, CBA hosted a special event at the Cairns Aquarium this week, where guests were treated to a fireside discussion between senior leaders. Mr Vacy-Lyle and CBA Executive General Manager Regional and Agribusiness Banking Paul Fowler gave a business update and discussed the region’s economic outlook, reaffirming CBA’s support for key industry sectors.  

Commenting on the visit, Mr Vacy-Lyle added: “We are deeply committed to supporting regional Australia, including Cairns and the Far North Queensland, where we are continuing to grow our local team and bring new opportunities to the region, like the Business of Winning event series we hosted in Cairns last month.

“As Australia’s leading business bank, it’s imperative that our leadership team and branch staff spend time engaging with the communities we serve, hearing directly from business leaders about the things that matter to them. This visit was an opportunity for a number of our senior leaders to hear first-hand from community and business representatives about what is happening in the region, what is important to them, and how we can best partner to improve the financial wellbeing of our customers and the broader community.

“We are thrilled to see a resurgence in the tourism industry with recent figures giving an early indication that the region will soon return to pre-pandemic levels. To help support this growth, we are invested in working with the local community to lend to local businesses, as we remain excited by the opportunities in this region.”

Further demonstrating CBA’s support for Cairns and Far North Queensland, the bank has recently been appointed the banking partner for the Cairns Aquarium, working together to support new tourism developments.

Daniel Leipnik, CEO of Cairns Aquarium, said: “We are excited to be working with the Commonwealth Bank as our banking partner. Together, we are dedicated to the success of the Cairns Aquarium, striving to boost our business and revive tourism visitor numbers to 2019 levels and beyond.

“The collaboration with CBA’s Business Bankers in Cairns and access to a broader regional team specialised in the tourism industry is key to our growth strategy. This partnership enables us to enhance our product offerings and significantly invest in growing our business over the next 12-24 months.”

For over 110 years the Commonwealth Bank has proudly served regional and rural communities right across the country.

Last year, CBA announced its commitment to keep all regional branches open, until at least the end of 2026, and welcomes the opportunity to partner with regional customers to help them achieve their business goals.

Go to CBA Newsroom for the latest news and announcements from Commonwealth Bank.

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