Cairns Airport’s Path to Sustainable Growth and Tourism Opportunities

by | Oct 27, 2023 | Blog

Yesterday I had the privilege of representing Signature Staff at the Advance Cairns luncheon focused on tourism and the growth and retention of Cairns Airport. The insights I gained were not only eye-opening but also inspiring. Cairns Airport is poised for remarkable growth, and the region is well-positioned to capitalise on the massive tourism opportunities in the Asia-Pacific market.

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We heard from Richard Barker, CEO Cairns Airport and Alana McKenna, CEO Skytek who celebrated recent accolades at the 2023 Australian Aviation Awards.

Cairns Airport winning ‘2023 Airport of The Year’ and Skytek ‘2023 Manufacturing and Maintenance Business of the Year’.

Here are a few things that I took away from Richard and Alana:

Pre-COVID Aspirations

Cairns Airport is working tirelessly to return to its pre-COVID glory. The statistics are promising, domestic flights have already reached 100% of their previous capacity, while international flights are at 93%. This return to normalcy is a testament to the resilience and determination of the airport and its partners.

Collaboration Over Competition

One of the key strategies being employed is partnership. Rather than having a multitude of airlines competing with each other, Cairns Airport is focusing on forming strategic alliances with a select few. This approach is designed to ensure profitability and long-term success for both the airport and its airline partners.

Sustainability and Retention

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Sustainability is at the heart of Cairns Airport’s growth plans. They are committed to continuing the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) program which they have been using for the last 10 years, showing their dedication to reducing the environmental impact of aviation. Additionally, the airport is exploring innovative solutions like using sugarcane bagasse’s which can be used as jet fuel. This forward-thinking approach aligns with the global call for greener, more responsible travel.

Overcoming Barriers

Two significant barriers to success have been identified: funding for the airports infrastructure and a skills shortage. Fortunately, the Queensland government is stepping in to address the latter issue by providing funding for training to overcome the skill shortage. This investment will help Cairns Airport and the likes of Skytek attract and retain the talent necessary for sustainable growth.

A Unique Opportunity

Cairns Airport is uniquely positioned to cater to long-haul flights from Asia and India that cannot reach Brisbane or Sydney without having to stop and refuel. This presents a tremendous opportunity to make Cairns a preferred gateway for travellers from these regions. The addition of a Singapore business lounge at the end of March is just one example of how Cairns Airport is making strides to accommodate international travellers.

Embracing New Brands

As part of its ongoing evolution, Cairns Airport is welcoming new waves of brands into the domestic airport. This forward-looking approach ensures that travellers have access to a wide range of services and amenities.

A Different Approach to Retail

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Interestingly, Cairns Airport has chosen not to open a retail precinct like a DFO. Their reasoning is simple: people come to Cairns for the destination, not the shopping at the airport. This shows a deep understanding of their market and the desire to preserve the unique charm of the region and promote growth into the retail business in Cairns City.


Cairns Airport’s journey toward sustainable growth and retention is nothing short of remarkable. They are harnessing the vast potential presented by the Asian tourism market and emphasising collaboration over competition. With a focus on sustainability and a commitment to overcoming challenges, Cairns Airport is on track to become a premier gateway to the region.

Along with the amazing refurbish of the Cairns Convention Centre and what they have in the pipeline, we can look forward to exciting new opportunities, services, and experiences as this remarkable City continues to evolve, contributing significantly to the rapid expansion of our tourism sector.


Katie Beattie

Business Development Manager

Phone: (07) 4050 3888


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1 Comment

  1. zoritoler imol

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