Cape York Tourism

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					                                   Cape York Tourism
                            Market Assessment & Potential

This summary of Cape York Visitor Research is based on the results of the following four research studies
conducted by Tourism Queensland during 2002 and 2003;

    1.   Exploring Non-Visitors Perceptions of Cape York, AC Nielsen, 2003
    2.   Cape York Peninsula Qualitative Research Report, MCR, 2002
    3.   Cape York Standard Visitor Survey, 2003, NCS Pearson
    4.   Cape York Industry Forum, 2002, Felan Consulting and Event Services

This visitor research paper summarises
    • why they visit,
    • where they go,
    • how they get there and
    • the potential for ongoing tourism development in the region.

This summary has been prepared to provide a brief overview of tourism on Cape York and should be used only in
that context.          The full research reports, complete with references, are available from The more detailed reports should form the basis of further study
or any business decision making and planning.

Visitor Appeal
The primary reason why people want to visit Cape York, as opposed to other destinations, is the sense of
adventure associated with it. The journey to Cape York is as much part of the appeal as the destination itself.1 It
is remote and challenging, so people anticipate a strong sense of achievement when they make it all the way to the

Other common reasons for visiting or wanting to visit Cape York Peninsula include:2 3
        • A desire to see the top end of Australia /to stand at the tip
        • The challenge to get to the top of Australia and to achieve something that only a few people have
        • To fulfil a long held desire to visit the area/ because they haven’t been there before
        • To see the Outback
        • To experience the wilderness, remoteness, isolation and seclusion
        • The uniqueness of the area
        • For the 4WD experience (including the river / creek crossings etc)
        • To fish the area
        • To see Cape York before it is spoilt (e.g. by infrastructure or tourists).
        • To have a totally different holiday experience
        • Having a personal interest in the area, having read about it or seen videos of the area
        • Wanting to visit historical attractions (e.g. WWII relics)
        • Wanting to give the children a new experience and allow them to learn new outdoor skills
        • Having the appropriate vehicle, time and “know-how” to make the trip
        • Wanting to test a new 4WD.

October 2003                                                                                                     1
Visitor Profile
Types of People Attracted to Cape York
Cape York is not a destination that appeals to everyone. It appears to be mainly limited to ‘outdoors’ people who
enjoy roughing it and have a desire for adventure. The type of people interested in visiting Cape York, even those
living in big cities, value “getting away from it all” and look forward to the quietness and seclusion of the area.
Visitors to the region like the fact that they won’t be competing with busloads of tourists (or at least, hope they
won’t) and they don’t want to see the region become over developed with infrastructure such as shopping centres
and resorts. 1

At an overall level, the type of people attracted to visiting Cape York are likely to be:
       • Energetic and adventurous
       • Outgoing
       • Easygoing
       • Looking for a challenge
       • Willing to try new things and take risks
       • Natural and down to earth
       • Willing to get their hands dirty1

The following table shows two potential market segments:2

            Adventure Traveller (larger segment)                           Easy Traveller (smaller segment)
            •   Likes to “rough it”                                        •   Time poor
            •   Enjoys nature                                              •   Prefers at least some basic luxuries (toilet and shower)
            •   Doesn’t mind being totally self-sufficient                 •   More likely to be female
            •   Enjoys the challenge of getting to the top and the kudos   •   May be more likely to come from a major city or
                this brings                                                    places further away from North Queensland
            •   Has more available time and can be more flexible with      •   Less knowledgeable about the Cape
                their timetable                                            •   Motivated by the chance of an exclusive / unique /
            •   Is an experienced four wheel driver and a committed            nature based experience
                camper                                                     •   Less likely to be self-sufficient and therefore more
            •   Motivated primarily by adventure                               likely to spend more on accommodation, meals and
            •   Keen to make repeat visits                                     activities

Demographic Profile 3

Characteristics of those who currently visit Cape York are summarised as follows:
•   The largest proportion of visitors to Cape York are from interstate (43% in 2002, 55% in 2001).
•   Approximately one third of visitors to Cape York are from Queensland (32% in 2002, 37% in 2001). Of
    these, approximately one quarter are from Far North Queensland (22% 2002, 26% 2001).
•   Overseas residents make up less than 10% of visitors to Cape York.
•   Visitors from Victoria and New South Wales account for over three-quarters of interstate visitors.
•   The key age group of visitors to Cape York is 45 to 64 years.
•   The most predominant household type is the mid-life household (including mature couples and singles).

October 2003                                                                                                                              2
Visitor Trip Planning
People expect that Cape York will take much more planning and effort than other destinations.1 The planning and
preparation process is considered a lengthy but integral part of a Cape York holiday, and most visitors thoroughly
enjoy the planning process.2

Travellers preparing for a Cape York holiday seek information on:
         • What essential supplies are required
         • Activities to take part in
         • Road conditions/routes
         • Places to see/visit
         • Locations of camp sites
         • Fuel/food/medical requirements2

Main sources of information used by Cape York visitors before leaving home include:
          • Maps
          • Internet
          • Travel guide/books
          • Friends/relatives/colleagues
          • 4WD magazines3
The main sources of information used while on the journey include:
          • Maps
          • Travel brochures
          • Visitor Information Centres
          • Service Stations
          • Travel guide/books
          • Friends/relatives/colleagues
          • Information boards at rest stops
          • Accommodation operators3

Visitor Trip - Details
Trip length 3
Just over one-half (55%) of all visitors to Cape York spend a total of four weeks or less away from home, with
approximately one-quarter spending two weeks or less away (26%). Queenslanders have shorter trip lengths, with
nearly three-quarters of Queenslanders (72%) spending four weeks or less away from home.

 In 2002, the majority of visitors to the Cape spent two weeks or less actually in Cape York Peninsula (61%). Not
surprisingly, Queenslanders spend a larger proportion of their time away from home actually in Cape York

Mode of Transport 3
A high proportion (over 80%) of Australian visitors to Cape York used their own car or 4WD to get there.
Overseas visitors (36%) were much more likely than Australians (3%) to use a hire car. The pattern of transport
used within the Cape is similar to the transport used getting to Cape York.

Travel Party
The majority of visitors to Cape York travelled as part of an adult couple (2002, 38%, 2001, 46%) or as a group of
friends/ relatives without children (2002, 26%; 2001, 25%). Less than one-quarter of visitors to Cape York
travelled with children (24%, 2002; 18%, 2001).3
Travelling in a group can help to allay safety concerns, particularly if there is more than one vehicle.2

October 2003                                                                                                    3
                                                                  Travel Party

                                                       Alone           3%

                                              Adult couple                                           38%

                                              Family group                        14%

                       Friends/relatives w ith children                         10%
                   Friends/relatives w ithout children                                       26%
                         Independent adults in groups                      6%
                                   Business associates             1%

                                                                 0%        10%        20%    30%    40%    50%

The vast majority of travellers to Cape York did not book their trip as part of a package deal or tour (91%, 2002;
94%, 2001).3 For some, the thought of any type of group tour in Cape York is off-putting. It goes against their
perceptions of the area as being remote, unexplored and secluded, and they certainly don’t desire or expect to be
running into large groups of tourists.1

The majority of visitors surveyed chose to camp in tents during their stay in Cape York. Bush camping, caravan
parks or camping grounds were the most common forms of accommodation utilised in the area.3 Many feel that
bush camping is part of the appeal of a Cape York trip and adds to the experience.2

Almost three-quarters (72%) of tent campers used or intended to use paid camping areas while in the Cape, and
almost two-thirds (63%) intended to use unpaid camping areas.3

81% of those who used unpaid camping in Cape York also used paid camping grounds at some point of their stay.
29% of those who used paid camping facilities also used unpaid camping facilities. There was an increase in the
percentage of people camping outside of paid areas from 2001 to 2002.3

                                               Types of Accommodation Used
                     Tent, camping – paid camping gro und                                                 72%
                     Tent camping – river/creek cro ssings                                         58%
                     Tent camping – o ther camping areas                                    41%
               Campervan/caravan – paid camping gro und                    14%
               Campervan/caravan – o ther camping areas                 10%
                              Cabin - paid camping gro und            6%
                                                      M o tel      4%
                              Friends o r relatives pro perty     3%
                                          Wo rking pro perty      3%
                                         B &B guestho use         2%
                                                     Reso rt      2%
                                   Standard ho tel (1 star)
                                                     -3           2%
                                     B o at/ho usebo at/ship      1%
                   Fully self co ntained apartment/ co ttage      1%
                            Cabin - no t in camping gro und      0%
                                     Luxury ho tel (4-5 star)    0%
                                                      Other       2%

                                                                0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%

                  Multiple responses accepted
Some visitors took advantage of caravan or camping grounds or other basic accommodation (e.g. cabins) when the
opportunity arose to have a break from camping and to use amenities such as a shower, toilet, bed and clothes
washing facilities. Such facilities are especially important to family travellers when children or parents tire of
camping. It should be stressed that amenities are not expected to be of a luxury standard: clean, comfortable and
value for money options are preferred.2

October 2003                                                                                                     4
Resorts are mentioned by some as an alternative means of accommodation, desirable mostly amongst southern
respondents. For some southern travellers the availability of resort accommodation caused them to extend their
stay and experience other activities in the region. However many travellers (particularly from Queensland) said
they would not stay in resort accommodation because of the high cost and because such accommodation is not in-
line with a Cape York experience. Further, most are not supportive of resort development throughout the region
for fear of it attracting more visitors to the area.2

The majority of visitors spent $20 or less per night on accommodation while in Cape York.3

Visitors are unlikely to book accommodation in advance, except for popular caravan parks located in coastal

Repeat Visitation
Over three-quarters of all visitors surveyed were on their first visit to Cape York. A higher proportion of
residents of Queensland have visited the Cape before than interstate or overseas residents.3

Despite all the effort it takes to get there and the challenges posed by Cape York, many visitors are keen to return.
The most common reasons for wanting to return are:

    •    To see and do more of the Cape York area (many were surprised at the variety of things to do)
    •    To return to an area of particular interest and spend more time in that area
    •    To relive this unique holiday experience (relaxation/seclusion, adventure/ challenge)
    •    To indulge a keen interest in fishing or nature.2
Other visitors are unlikely to return. Reasons include:
    •    Finding the ride too uncomfortable and the accommodation and facilities too basic
    •    Living too far away - for those further away from Cape York
    •    Experiencing damage to a vehicle.2

Simply making it to the top is seen as a very involved and challenging activity in itself. People anticipate a great
feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction from reaching the tip of Cape York.1

The top 5 activities undertaken by people while in Cape York are: standing at the top of Australia; 4WD
experiences; visiting National Parks; visiting historical sites and fishing.3

                                           Activites Undertaken by Visitors to Cape York in 2002

                   St and at the t op of Australia                                                                         85%
                                 4WD experience                                                                           84%
                             Visit National Parks                                                                   77%
                             Visit historical sit es                                                          68%
                                            Fishing                                                           68%
                      Bushwalking (self-guided)                                                   49%
                Experience the outback lifest yle                                                 49%
                     Wildlif e watching/spot ting                                               46%
                                    Bird watching                                             43%
                         M eet aboriginal people                                       35%
                             Adventure activit ies                               28%
                   Visit aboriginal rock art sit es                             26%
               St ay on a catt le stat ion/ propert y                           26%
        Learn about t raditional foods/medicines                          17%
                    Aboriginal dance experience                     11%
                   Traditional aboriginal fishing                  10%
                           Bushwalking (guided)                    10%
                                            Hunting               9%
                Homest ay with aboriginal f amily            5%
                                              Other                 13%
October 2003                                            0%    10%         20%   30%     40%     50%     60%   70%   80%     90%   5
The most popular spots, all visited by more than 50% of visitors, are Musgrave Roadhouse, Archer River, Seisa,
Coen, Weipa, Cooktown, Bamaga. Other popular spots include: Lakeland, Hann River, Moreton Telegraph
station, Laura, Punsand Bay. The most popular National Park is Lakefield, with 82% of visitors in 2002 visiting
this park. Other popular parks, visited by more than 50% of visitors are Jardine River (67%) and Heathlands
Resource Reserve (51%).

Tourism Potential
The underlying basis for the Cape’s appeal revolves around its natural beauty and unspoilt wilderness, isolation
and remoteness, open spaces, lack of commercialization and challenging terrain. It should be noted that many
travellers who have been to Cape York are very protective of the area and would prefer it to maintain its isolation
and basic tourist offering. Visitors are attracted by the uniqueness of the region, and the sense of adventure and
challenge that the area presents. Although hardships are sometimes nominated as unappealing, being able to
overcome these hardships is perceived as an enticing prospect. Further, some elements (e.g. poor roads, difficult
creek crossings) are generally accepted because they keep out the crowds of tourists, and thus many would prefer
these factors remain unchanged.       It will be important to ensure that any development in the region does not
detract from the unique appeal of the area whilst at the same time ensuring long term environmental
sustainability.1 2

Infrastructure Needs 2
The following infrastructure needs have been identified as part of the visitor research:

•    Improving signage to major areas and roads. Signage throughout areas north of Weipa and in particular north
     of the Jardine River and along the Telegraph Track is noted as ‘tricky’ to follow. Signage to places such as
     Portland Road or Frenchman’s Road could be improved.
•    Improving directional signage to key sites and attractions
•    Increasing “informative” signage, including:
         o Signage to inform and educate travellers of the presence of bull dust
         o Recommended safe speeds (particular in and around the area of Coen)
         o Warning signs of upcoming dips or trenches
•    Grading the roads more frequently. Most travellers consider the corrugated roads add to the challenge and
     adventure, however, most do concede that the roads can become uncomfortable and damage vehicles. It is
     suggested that road maintenance be constrained to the Bypass Road and not include the Telegraph Track.
     Some suggest sealing the roads or building a bridge over the Jardine River. Though most visitors are against
     the increased tourism flow this could generate.
•    Providing (and maintaining) more public toilets. Prior to visiting the area, most had low expectations for
     public toilet facilities, with most prepared to be self-sufficient in this area. Despite this, the lack of public
     toilet amenities and littering of toilet paper throughout the region is considered to be a negative by most
     travellers. In some areas (e.g. around Bamaga, Aurukun, Lockhart and Delhunty Rivers, National Parks)
     toilet amenities are found to be inadequate due to poor maintenance.             As a minimum, travellers are
     requesting the installation of toilet facilities at major creek crossings. Dulhunty River is singled out as being
     in particular need of maintained toilet facilities.
•    Improving public telephone availability and maintenance. While public phones are provided at major towns
     in the region many travellers experienced difficulty when using them due to telephones requiring a phone
     card (which were not widely available) or coin-operated telephones being jammed with coins.
•   Improving camping facilities. Possible improvements include
        o Providing more grassy areas to camp
        o Extra toilets/ improved maintenance of toilet facilities
        o Providing paid caravan or camping facilities (similar to the standard available at Punsand Bay) in
            other parts of the region to avoid overcrowding
        o Reducing costs
•    Providing more safe swimming options, particularly at scenic bays. Swimming is a popular activity for
     travellers, particularly families. Swimmers are aware of crocodiles and this does mean that swimming
     opportunities are restricted. Some caravan parks have pools, but family travellers are sometimes
     disappointed at the lack of safe swimming options for their children, particularly at scenic bays.
October 2003                                                                                                        6
•   Providing a service station on the stretch of road between the Archer River Roadhouse and Bamaga.
•   Providing access to potable water at Lakefield, Cape Melville, Maytown and Palmer River.
•   Providing more information and interpretative signage for aboriginal/ historical/ local interest sites.
•   Reviewing the accommodation supply. While bush camping is one of the most popular forms of
    accommodation in Cape York, many travellers occasionally take advantage of other accommodation options
    to give themselves a “break” from camping and to utilise amenities associated with paid accommodation.
    Provision of more accommodation options could encourage visitors to spend more money at each destination.
    Development of accommodation options should be monitored to ensure they do not impact too heavily on the
    natural environment, this being a major turn-off to visitors. It should be stressed that amenities are not
    expected to be of a luxury standard: clean, comfortable and value for money options are preferred.
    Assessment of future camping needs must consider the long term sustainability of bush camping. It is
    considered that there is a need for better management of camping that is environmentally, socially and
    culturally sustainable and provides economic support for communities while at the same time retaining the
    ‘bush camping’ feel and experience wanted by visitors.
•   Upgrading boat ramps, in particular at Port Stewart and Weipa.
•   Improving the availability/ awareness of hire boats. While most visitors take their own dinghies, there is
    scope to improve the availability of hire boats on the Cape. Some southern visitors said they would have
    done more fishing if they’d known boats could be hired.

Furthermore, the following regulatory and educational aspects should be considered:
•   Controlling the dumping of rubbish (including toilet paper)
•   Easing the restricted access to camping or fishing in National Parks
•   Monitoring perceived overcrowding in some caravan parks and camp grounds
•   Improving customer service values amongst some accommodation operators, retailers, mechanics and ferry
    operators. There is a perception that customer service values suffer due to limited competition. Visitors
    dislike feeling that they are “held to ransom” by service providers.
•   Improving access to information on the Internet. While Internet use is on the increase there is considered to
    be a lack of information specifically regarding Cape York on the Internet.
•   Monitoring the impact of tour buses. Some visitors are particularly disappointed when they are unable to use
    the best sections of campgrounds when these have been reserved for tour buses. Visitors also perceive that
    some problems with garbage, toilets and road degradation are compounded by the increasing number of tour
    buses in the area.
•   Providing education to “first-time” visitors. Education could be provided to help ensure that inexperienced
    travellers don’t impact negatively on the environment and the enjoyment of others. Types of information
    considered important include information on necessary supplies, vehicle requirements, four wheel driving
    tips, road conditions, environmental hazards (e.g. bull dust, dips in roads) and Cape York “etiquette” or
•   Need for an efficient and responsible mechanical assistance and repair service.

Development Opportunities 2

The following tourism development opportunities have been identified:
•   Visitors to the Cape would like to know more about it and there are opportunities to develop guided tours
    focusing on indigenous art, culture, bush tucker, the history of white settlement and World War II
    experiences. Guided tours should be suitable for both adults and children, as education is seen to be part of
    the experience for families, with many parents taking the opportunity to teach children about Australia’s
    history or about basic outdoor survival techniques.
•   There is also demand for bush and National Park tours and fishing expeditions (fishing is one of the major
    activities undertaken by travellers to the region, and a common motivation for visiting the Cape York
•   While most visitors take their own dinghies, there is scope to improve the availability of hire boats on the
    Cape. Some southern visitors said they would have done more fishing if they’d known boats could be hired.

October 2003                                                                                                   7
•   Itineraries could be developed to cater to the different market segments. “Easy” itineraries could be
    developed around accommodation with private facilities for the Easy Traveler. “Harder and challenging”
    itineraries could be included for the Adventure Traveler. Consideration could also be given to developing
    itineraries based on shorter time frames to suit the time poor visitor. “Detour itineraries” could also be
    included which would provide interesting side-trips off the main track and be useful to those on their way
    back from the Cape with the available time to stop.
•   The following activities have been suggested/requested by people who have visited the Cape. Further
    research would be required to determine the viability of such ventures.
            o    Shell collecting
            o    Pearl farm tours
            o    Barramundi fishing expeditions
            o    Cave touring with a local guide
•   An opportunity exists to work with Indigenous locals to make parks available to tourists and establish native
    tours. Opportunities also exist for the development and promotion of indigenous experiences, including
    home stays with aboriginal families, traditional aboriginal fishing opportunities, learning about traditional
    foods and medicines and aboriginal dance experiences.
•   There is the opportunity for a detailed guide to be developed including education topics such as:
             o Information on necessary supplies
             o Vehicle requirements
             o Four wheel driving tip
             o Road conditions
             o Environmental hazards (e.g. bull dust, dips in roads)
             o Cape York “etiquette” or protocols
             o Preparing for a group trip (eg: suggesting timings of meetings, dates for preparations to be
                 completed by, suggestions on how to divide up the preparations etc)
             o The available accommodation, retail facilities and fuel facilities
             o Available tours
             o Suggested itineraries
             o Hire boats / charter boat tours (more information could be provided to southern markets

•   It could be useful to provide some means for people to pre-register to travel to the Cape as part of a group. In
    Sydney and Melbourne in particular, a barrier to traveling to the region is not having a group to travel with.
    Education and planning days could be held where potential group participants could meet others and learn
    about the area and preparation needed. A video could be developed for use by these groups.
•   Promoting guided or ‘tag-along’ tours may be worthwhile, to allay safety concerns held by some travellers
    and to provide support for those who may be less confident driving on their own.

  Exploring Non-Visitors Perceptions of Cape York, AC Nielsen, 2003
  Cape York Peninsula Qualitative Research Report, MCR, 2002
  Cape York Standard Visitor Survey, 2003, NCS Pearson

October 2003                                                                                                      8

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