The launch of the redeveloped Cairns Airport is great news for Tropical North Queensland and is expected to enhance tourism in the region, Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Paul Lucas said today.

Mr Lucas said tourism directly contributed $1.3 billion to the region’s economy and the sector was highly dependent on the support of its airline partners.

“A strong airport means strong tourism and the Cairns Airport continues to play a crucial role in the Tropical North’s future growth,” Mr Lucas said.

“Cairns is Australia’s second busiest regional airport after Coolangatta on the Gold Coast, and it’s estimated that the airport generates annually around $2 billion for the regional economy.

“Around 30,000 jobs in the region are also dependent on the successful operation of Cairns Airport.

“Additionally Cairns is the gateway to a range of fantastic natural attractions and hundreds of tours leave Cairns for various parts of the region each day.

“The airport plays a key role in this, and the State Government continues to work in close partnership with Cairns Airport, Tourism Queensland and Tourism Tropical North Queensland to grow visitation.

“The sale of the airport allowed the State Government to undertake the redevelopment of the Cairns Base Hospital – investing $446.3 million for an additional 168 beds by the end of 2014 and a range of new and additional services for the region.

“Yet as we have seen today, the airport has also continued to grow to become bigger and better.

Member for Cairns Desley Boyle said Cairns Airport Pty Ltd, owners of the Cairns Airport, were investing in the future of Tropical North Queensland.

“The $200 million Cairns Airport redevelopment is a savvy investment with benefits for the investors, the tourism industry and the people of Cairns,” Ms Boyle said.

“Right from the beginning this project has been great news all round for the Cairns region.

“The Cairns Airport will also continue to play a vital role as Queensland’s gateway to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific – something of critical importance for trade in this region.

Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism and Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall said the potential for tourism growth in Tropical North Queensland was huge, evidenced by Jetstar’s recent increase in capacity into the region since Cairns Airport Pty Ltd took over ownership and announced the airport redevelopment.

“In July Jetstar announced a new Auckland-Cairns service would commence in April 2011 which would add more than 500 weekly seats in the region, representing a 47 percent increase in international seat capacity from New Zealand to Cairns,” Mr Wettenhall said.

“More recently, the airline announced it would further expand its domestic capacity to Cairns by almost 30 percent from early 2011.

“In order to increase visitor numbers to the region in the long term, domestic and direct international services into Cairns must continue to grow and we hope to see the introduction of more services by Jetstar and other airlines into the region,” he said.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt also welcomed the opening of the redevelopment and said the State Government would continue to support local tourism.

“The State Government will of course continue working with Tourism Queensland and the region’s industry stakeholders to ensure the local tourism continues to receive the support it needs in the wake of the recent tough times,” Mr Pitt said.

In the year ending June 2010 Tropical North Queensland welcomed over two million international and domestic visitors who spent $2.4 billion on their trips to the region.

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