Airport exit survey 2009 and final report: January 2007 – December 2009. 2007–2009 patterns of reef and rainforest tourism in North Queensland from exit surveys conducted at Cairns Domestic Airport

Prideaux, Bruce, and Sibtain, Jonathan (2014) Airport exit survey 2009 and final report: January 2007 – December 2009. 2007–2009 patterns of reef and rainforest tourism in North Queensland from exit surveys conducted at Cairns Domestic Airport. Report. Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF), Cairns, QLD, Australia.

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The specific aim of this research was to develop a comprehensive data set, on a quarterly basis, that facilitates investigation of a range of issues, including demographic profiles, motivations, activities, segmentation and seasonality of visitors in the Tropical North Queensland Region (TNQ). Data has been released on a quarterly basis as a barometer and on an annual basis as an Annual Report ( and as occasional fact sheets. In this final annual report for the MTSRF program, data is provided on an annual, as well as a whole of project, time scale. Comparisons of annual data are provided for 2007, 2008, 2009 and for the overall 2007-2009 survey results. Results are based on 4672 completed surveys collected from tourists in the departure lounge of the Cairns Domestic Airport. The first three years of data has been aggregated to create a three year average against which future changes in visitor characteristics may be measured. The data was collected only at the airport and, as a consequence, does not report on visitors who used other transport modes to travel to and from the destination. The research was not designed to provide information on the overall numbers of visitors who visit the region or how these figures vary on a yearly basis. Readers are referred to Tourism Research Australia which publishes high quality data on visitor numbers.

Findings for the 2007–2009 research period

Visitor characteristics -After domestic visitors, the second largest group of respondents was from the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland, followed by North America and Europe. -By occupation the largest group of respondents was professionals, who comprised 23.5% of all respondents, followed by students (16.8%). A further 14.3% of respondents in the 2007-2009 survey period were retirees/semi-retirees. -Combined, the 20-29 and 30-39 year age groups make up over 43.8% of the 2007-2009 survey period. The 60-65 and the 65+ groups together totalled 19.5% over the same period. -The largest travel party sector was couples, who accounted for 42.6% of the 2007-2009 survey period; a rate which remained constant for each year of this survey. The next most significant travel party groups were respondents travelling alone (16.2%) and with friends (15.5%). -Two-thirds of respondents (66.6%) were first-time visitors to North Queensland. Of the remaining 33.4% of respondents who had visited North Queensland on a previous occasion, 62.7% had visited the region up to three times previously. -Patterns of accommodation showed considerable variability over the period of the survey. Hotels/motels were the most popular form of accommodation (31.2%), followed by holiday apartments, backpacker hostels and resorts. One form of accommodation that shows a consistent pattern of growth is the caravan park/cabin sector.

Motivations for visiting the region

There were considerable differences in the ranking given to motivations by domestic and international visitors. The top seven motives for visiting the region during the 2007-2009 survey period for domestic visitors were rest and relax (1), climate (2), experience the natural environment (3), visit the rainforest (4), visit the Great Barrier Reef (5), visit the beaches (6) and in equal seventh place, price matched my budget and to visit friends and relatives. For international visitors the top seven motives were: to visit the rainforest (1), see Australian wildlife (2), visit the Great Barrier Reef (3), experience the natural environment (4), snorkelling and diving (5), rest and relax (6) and climate (7). Analysis of the remaining motives indicates that there is relatively strong interest by international visitors in indigenous culture (m=3.4) and adventure activities (m=3.39).


During the 2007-2009 survey period, 76.1% of respondents reported visiting the Wet Tropics World Heritage rainforests. The key hot spots for experiencing the rainforest included Kuranda (51.3% in the 2007-2009 survey period), Daintree (35.7% in the 2007-2009 survey period) and Mossman Gorge (32.5% in the 2007-2009 survey period).

The reasons given by respondents for not visiting the rainforest (23.9%) were not enough time followed by not interested and that activities they wished to participate in were not available.

For the survey period 74.2% (79.0% in 2009) of respondents visited the Great Barrier Reef with the majority of respondents departing from Cairns.

The key reasons given by respondents for not visiting the Great Barrier Reef were lack of time (13.5%) and because they had been before (8.5%).

Respondents’ opinions on the region’s service quality standards have been relatively constant over 2008 and 2009. A number of results are positive, including accommodation, tours and, particularly, respondents’ perceptions of safety and security while in the destination. A number of responses are, however, of concern, including public transport, restaurants and shopping. The relatively low score for public transport is of particular concern given that the majority of visitors rely on either public transport or tour coaches to visit attractions in the region.


The overall annual mean for the 2007-2009 survey period was 8.45. Domestic respondents reported a lower level of satisfaction during the 2007-2009 survey period than their international counterparts (m=8.51).

Item ID: 31939
Item Type: Report (Report)
ISBN: 978-1-925088-12-0
Keywords: Far North Queensland, protected areas, Wet Tropics, Great Barrier Reef, motives, tourists
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Additional Information:

Project 4.9.2 Sustainable nature based tourism: planning and management

Funders: Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF)
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2016 01:27
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 100%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900399 Tourism not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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