Having travelled extensively to Cairns, Australia over the last eight years I have seen the boom and the bust. In the late ninety’s, Japanese tourism was at an all-time high, and Japanese tourists were flocking to Cairns to catch a glimpse of one of the two world-renowned draws for the area: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest.
However, tourism was geared too heavily towards the Japanese: road signs in Cairns were written in Japanese, restaurants were filled with interpreters, and even menus catered in an array of languages.
Nevertheless, construction was at an all-time high in areas such as Palm Cove and Port Douglass—they rose out of the ground and evolved into popular tourist destinations.
Fast forward to 2013 and Cairns paints a vastly different picture.
The Japanese signs are gone and so too are the menus, and construction has come to a seemingly quicker halt than a freight train at its final destination. Japanese tourists are few and far between – and the backpacker trade (travellers reveling on a budget and a dream) makes up the majority of tourists.
Unfortunately for tourism, the backpackers do not have the sufficient funding to stay in the lavish resorts that have been erected, nor are they spending the capital that is needed to sustain the tourism industry. They are taking advantage of whatever free sightseeing adventure they can muster and in Cairns there is an array of these to choose from.
Sounds diabolical, doesn’t it? Yet I think it’s in fact a great place for investment at present.
Now before you question my sanity, you need to understand and comprehend why what has happened has in fact happened.
First of all, unlike Sydney or Melbourne, Cairns is geographically closer to major Asian destinations such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and China.
So what changed to force the flee from Asian tourism from tropical North Queensland? I believe its two major aspects: the high Australian dollar and the remoteness of the location.
People going on holidays don’t want to sit in transit, take connecting flights, and spend 24 hours to reach their final destination. Before you know it, jet lag sets in and the first three days of a seven-day holiday can be spent recovering from such a trip. In the past, tourists had to fly down to Brisbane then back up three hours to Cairns—that is, until the expansion and erection of the Cairns international airport.
The airport began an extensive domestic terminal redevelopment project in August 2007. The project was completed on 29 September 2010 at a cost of AUD$200m.
The project included: new security and passenger handling technology, new baggage screening technology, expansion of baggage handling, self-service check-in terminals and common check-in areas for all the airlines based at the airport. Plus there were new retail outlets and refurbishment of others, five new aerobridges for all aircraft, and new access roads, car parks and pedestrian walkways.
The redevelopment resulted in a fully refurbished facility with state-of-the-art facilities.
Not only has the transformation of the Cairns airport brought greater comfort to international tourists but is now bringing new and improved direct flights into Cairns from China, a burgeoning new market that is about to take advantage of shorter commute times and an opportunity to see something truly unique (the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest).
Australia’s richest man and a visionary in Business, Mr. James Packer, recently stated in an interview regarding Australian Tourism that ‘the middle class of China, over the next 10 years, will have a bigger impact on tourism than the internet.’
It’s quite a bold statement; however, who am I to question a man who has solidified a fortune with ownership in Macau casinos and is currently lobbying for an additional casino in Sydney? With his Macau Empire it’s evident that he is well qualified to make such a statement on Asian initiatives. And it seems the airlines agree.
Now it is no secret that my investment strategy is twofold:
1. Look where there is infrastructure
2. Buy at the bottom of the market
To me, Cairns ticks both these boxes and is ripe for capitalization.
It seems China southern airlines also agree with Mr. Packer’s assessment: in March 2012 they began offering a direct route from Shanghai to Cairns, and in February 2013 they increased its routes to now include a direct flight from Guangzhou to Cairns.
Additionally, you can now access Cairns from Hong Kong, Narita/Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore (via Darwin), Port Moresby, Shanghai and Guam.
A recent report by analyst Rick Carr of Herron Todd White said the economic recovery in Cairns ‘gained further momentum over the last month with most key indicators showing accelerated improvement.
‘All is not yet rosy in the economy, but the progress made has been significant,’ he added.
Mr. Carr also said there had been gains in the key areas of employment, airport passenger numbers and building approval, and said that the number of people in jobs rose by 4,900 in December 2012 to a record high of 145,200.
‘This continued the strong run of employment growth that took place during 2012.’
Passenger numbers through Cairns airport’s domestic terminal ‘continues to achieve record highs,’ added Mr. Carr, and the numbers over in international terminal have also been boosted by new services from China.
‘Building-approval numbers have recovered significantly during 2012, with a 38.6% increase in the number of houses approved from January to November 2012 compared to the same period of 2011,’ he said.
So it’s evident the recovery has commenced – but where is the best place to invest? For me its eco-tourism, and I will now tell you why.
I recently ventured up to Cairns for my honeymoon. Living in Asia, and because my wife is Filipino, I was seeking a total Australian experience.
I stayed in a unique boutique eco lodge in the Daintree Rainforest called, Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa because I’d just read about it being voted the ‘world’s leading eco resort and spa’ in December 2012 in India.
It is only a 20-minute helicopter flight from the Cairns International Airport; however I hired a car and the drive was a little under two hours. Taking the helicopter option, you do get to see over the Great Barrier Reef, the mouth of the Daintree River and into the Lodge, which is set in the world’s oldest rainforest (135 million years old, 65 million years older than the Amazon). It has strict environmental practices and combines interesting experiences with the ancient rainforest setting, and the local rainforest Aboriginal culture. These aspects are all combined in the wellness spa centre, the food in the restaurant and unique activities.
In meeting the passionate owners who founded the Lodge some 18 years ago, I learnt they are seeking investors to launch the resort into the lucrative trillion dollar-wellness tourism industry by capitalising on their already established global recognition and the ‘clean, green and pristine’ image of the powerful Daintree brand.
After a lengthy conversation with the owners, Terry and Cathy Maloney, I became enthralled with their plans to take their massively successful ‘blue-print’ into the global eco-wellness arena and focus on Asian markets to deliver a premium and worthwhile product. They have also developed another premium product being the native, natural and organic skincare range, called Daintree Essentials, which they want to launch into China, India and Asia. For this product alone, they are predicting a AUD$40m+ turnover in the first seven years.
For me, this is an extremely high-impact, low-risk investment. Asian investors could value-add by introducing distributors to the Daintree products and could capitalize on the rare opportunity with its intrinsic values: unpolluted pure air; an ancient rainforest with its own pristine water supply from its own waterfall; Australian Aboriginal culture; a 30-acre parcel of free-hold land, bordered by UNESCO World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest (adjacent to the majestic Daintree River and only 40 minutes north of Port Douglas – the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef).
The countless awards this resort has been awarded include:
• 2012, World’s Leading Eco Resort and Spa
• Best Hotel in Australia
• WINNER – Down Under Live Awards UK
Famous American celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Brooke Shields have written personal testimonials about their experience at Eco Lodge. However many more have attended this sanctuary but the owners were reluctant to divulge due to maintaining their clients’ privacy.
Migration to Australia
This lucrative investment may also suit the criteria for Australia’s new Significant Investor Visa, for clients who seek migration opportunities into Australia.
The Business Innovation and Investment program is for migrants who have demonstrated experience and success in business or investment. The Significant Investor visa will be introduced as a new stream within the Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) (Subclass 188) visa and the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) (Subclass 888) visa.
Visa applicants must submit an expression of interest in SkillSelect, be nominated by a State or Territory government and make investments of at least five million Australian dollars into complying investments.
Visa applicants do not need to satisfy the ‘innovation points test’ and there are no upper age limits. The visa stream features a residence requirement of 160 days spent in Australia over four years while holding the Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) (Subclass 188) visa.
For me this is personally an exceptional opportunity for those seeking to migrate to Australia, live in arguably the 8th wonder of the world and seek investments into a sustainable and profitable enterprise getting involved in a long-term viable business on the cusp of something special.
It’s no secret that Australia is one of the greatest places to live and has been the preferred migration option for Asian migrants. This Investor visa has revolutionized the path – however, the hardest aspect is finding the right investment that will maximize your returns.
For further information about migration options, the Subclass 188 Investor Visa or Daintree Eco Lodge, feel free to firstname.lastname@example.org.