New research reveals the Whitsundays set for a golden era of growth

Sustained above-average population growth is set to position the Whitsundays region for a golden era of growth, according to a report by research group Aurelius.

Population growth in the Whitsundays looks set to outperform the 15-year average, with Victoria and NSW leading the post-Covid boom.

“The population in the Whitsunday Regional Council area grew by 1.7 per cent per annum over the past five years, ahead of the region’s 15-year average of 1.5 per cent,” said the report.

“With population growth expected to remain above the historical average over the next two decades, it is estimated the Whitsunday region’s population will hit 49,591 by 2041, up from about 38,000 at present.”


Among the major infrastructure investments currently under way in the region is the $350 million Shute Harbour Marina Resort which will bring to the market 395 new wet-berth marina berths centred on a residential-resort precinct comprising waterfront homes and a vibrant marina village with a retail and dining precinct, a resort hotel and backpacker accommodation.

Sam Wade, the managing director of the Shute Harbour Marina Development, said the Aurelius research highlights the opportunity ahead for the Whitsunday region and North Queensland more broadly to capitalise on the region’s growth potential.

“Australians have a growing appreciation of the region and everything it has to offer in terms of lifestyle and growth potential,” said Wade.

“With the growth we have seen over the past three years, and with the level of investment currently under way in North Queensland, this research presents a compelling case for continued growth in the Whitsunday region, particularly as international tourism begins to regain momentum.”

Aurelius Director Peter Bell, a highly regarded advisor and strategist, estimates the Whitsundays could see its tourism economy grow by an extra $600 million to $2.14 billion by 2025 if new initiatives currently in train come to fruition.

Bell highlighted that the region is already a major tourism drawcard with the visitor market expected to be worth $1.53 billion in the next three years, but the infrastructure spending currently under way in the region will significantly accelerate the tourism economy.

The top end of his forecast will see a doubling of the value of the local tourism economy over the seven years to 2025, building on an economic pillar that Bell said remains pivotal to the region’s future.

The Whitsunday economy is heavily reliant on tourism with about 3,000 people directly employed in the industry, and the expected growth in the industry will be significant for the region.

The region has become an increasingly popular destination for the domestic holiday market following an influx of interstate visitors to Queensland during the pandemic.

Tourism supports about 40 per cent of local jobs in the Whitsundays region, which is the highest in Queensland and one of the highest in Australia.

Whitsundays, QLD

The Brisbane-based researcher presented his findings on the State of the Whitsundays before a host of special guests including the Mayor of Whitsunday Regional Council, Julie Hall, and Deputy Mayor Gary Simpson during a presentation at the Whitsunday Marine Club.

Among his findings, Bell sees potential for the Whitsundays region to leverage off its reputation as a boating haven with new facilities for large and small marine vessels among the essential infrastructure projects that will support an expanding tourism economy.

Signalling the significant growth of the marine industry in the Sunshine State, Bell revealed that the number of boat registrations in Queensland grew almost four times faster than the state’s population in percentage terms during the 2021 financial year, at the height of the pandemic.

Queensland boat registrations rose 2.9 per cent in 2021, well above the 10-year average of 1.4 per cent.

The recent growth in boat ownership highlights an urgent need for increased storage capacity, especially for on-water marina berths which have sustained a high marina occupancy rate of 86 per cent in FY21, despite the pandemic.

Bell estimates the Whitsundays region’s economy is being further supported by a post-Covid migration renaissance from both interstate and intrastate migration with the latest population data showing historically higher rates of growth.

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