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Cairns Tourism

Cosmetic surgery tourism

Jul 26, 2009

CAIRNS, the tourism hub of tropical north Queensland, is reinventing itself as the cosmetic surgery and IVF mecca of Australia -- targeting US defence personnel in Guam.

Following a boost in weekly commercial flights from the US Pacific territory, Cairns tourism operators are banking on US defence base workers taking advantage of the cheaper surgery in Australia compared with the US.

West Australian IVF pioneer John Yovich and partner Doug Yek will open a fertility clinic in Cairns in mid-September in a complex also housing plastic surgeons.

The move borrows from Thailand and Singapore, where people can have cosmetic and other medical procedures while on holiday.

Guam, with a population of 200,000 and a strong US defence presence, is a target market, given that there is no IVF in the US territory and Cairns is the closest Western city where it is offered.

"The biggest opportunity is the American market because it is very expensive in the US and they are not covered by their health fund," Mr Yek said.

Qantas's cutting of 14 flights a week from Tokyo to Cairns a year ago had been expected to cost the economy $125million a year and 1200 jobs.

However, Rob Giason, chief executive of Tropical Tourism North Queensland, said the city's fortunes were revived after seven of the cancelled flights were reinstated and four new flights a week were secured from Guam.

Despite this, the local industry realised it could no longer rely on the Japanese yen, so the Australian Tourism Export Council and TTNQ were encouraging medical tourism.

Cairns' hotel market emerged as one of the worst performers of the country last year, with occupancy rates diving 5.7 percentage points to 61.9 per cent, after flights there from Japan were slashed.

Tourism operators also reported a slump in the number of people on tours from Cairns out to the Great Barrier Reef.

The city's tourism industry was struck again when swine flu started keeping Asian visitors away, and it is still struggling to fill Cairns' 13,000 hotel rooms.

The latest kick in the guts for the city came last month, with the $250m collapse of Hedley Group at a time when the city's jobless rate is higher than any other in Queensland, at 8.5 per cent.

The medical clinic is expected to boost hotel occupancy through package deals including the cost of the procedure, massages, flights and accommodation with operators such as Rydges or the Shangri-La.

Cosmetic surgery tourism
Source: The Australian

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