Port Douglas in Australia is a bustling resort town located approximately 70 kilometres north of Cairns. It is the main population centre within the Douglas Shire area of north Queensland, with over 3,600 residents. In addition to the resident population, the town supports sometimes an overnight tourist population of over 8,000 on any one night.
Originally a sleepy fishing village, Port Douglas became established as a major tourist destination and investment hotspot in 1987 with the construction of the Sheraton Mirage Hotel (300 rooms) and the associated condominium complex, which includes a resort golf course. In the late 1980's three other major tourist facilities - the then Radisson Royal Palms Resort (300 rooms), the first stage of Reef Terraces (146 units), and the Marina Mirage Shopping complex - were developed. The most recent large resort to be constructed in Port Douglas is the Sea Temple Resort (211 apartments)
Since 1996 the focus has moved away from large scale single-owner resorts to the construction of one and two bedroom strata titled holiday apartment complexes, firstly in close proximity to the main shopping area in Macrossan Street, and more recently in the Port Links vicinity.
In addition, each of the original large resorts, with the exception of the Sheraton Mirage, has been subsequently converted to strata title and the units sold to investors. Most new developments have on-site management to cater for the visitor accommodation market and the trend recently has been to sell new stock with a guaranteed return or leaseback arrangement.
The marketing of these developments as well as high profile tourist businesses such as the reef tour company Quicksilver Connections, and the development of the Cairns international airport, have provided the impetus to establish Port Douglas as a national and international visitor destination. Tourism is the main economic force driving the Port Douglas economy and the local property market.
Figures showed that the Douglas Shire had a permanent population of 11,275 at 30 June 2004. Its growth history is shown in Figure 1. Though growth rates in individual years have been quite variable, Shire population has grown at a long term average of just over 4% per annum to almost double over the last 20 years. Periods of high growth took place during the early and late 1980s, and to a lesser extent in 1993 and 1994.
Since 1994, growth rates in Port Douglas Queensland have been more subdued, averaging 3.1% per annum. Growth from 1989 to 1991 was particularly low, affected by the economic downturn brought about by the 1989 pilots' dispute. These indicate strong functional linkages between tourism growth and population growth. Port Douglas itself had an estimated resident population of 4,305 at 30 June 2003, up from 3,030 as at 30 June 1996. This indicates growth in Port Douglas averaging 4.2% per annum over these 7 years.
The 2001 Population Census recorded 7,900 visitors in the Douglas Shire on Census night 7 August 2001, a time which corresponds with the peak tourist season. This figure includes visitors staying as household guests (eg. people staying with friends or relatives) as well as overnight guests in accommodation establishments. Of the Shire visitors, 50% were from overseas, 40% were from interstate (most commonly Victoria), and 10% were fellow Queenslanders.
Nearly three quarters of Shire visitors were staying in Port Douglas, but 10% were accommodated in the Daintree / Cape Tribulation area and 17% elsewhere in the Shire. Visitor counts also highlights that, at peak times, Port Douglas visitors well outnumber locals.