Australia's Queensland tourism industry has completed a remarkable U-turn, thanks to a huge increase in hotel occupancy rates during the past 12 months.
The change in fortune is being fuelled by cheap flights carrying loads of southern visitors, with arrival numbers reaching pre-September 11 levels, the latest Midwood Queensland Investment report shows.
Accommodation providers in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Cairns are enjoying the biggest windfall, increasing their room rates by 8 per cent.
The figures are a stark contrast to 12 months ago when photographs of the Surfers Paradise skyline at night showed many rooms were empty.
But as occupancy levels nudge past 80 per cent, tourists can expect to pay more for a bed, with prices tipped to rise by $12 a night.
"Domestic travellers took advantage of the cheap airfares to holiday during the winter months in balmy Queensland," the Midwood report said.
Head researcher John Rose said: "The cheap airfares were very significant. You can fly with Virgin and Jetstar and get around very cheaply now.
"In previous years the airfares were terribly high. The Gold Coast had 3 million arrivals at the (Coolangatta) airport in 2004, which was a record."
Mr Rose said overseas tourists were also travelling again after overcoming their fears about the SARS outbreak and terrorists attacks.
Brisbane accommodation houses had the highest percentage increase in takings at 19 per cent; the highest occupancy rates of 82.6 per cent and equal largest room rate increase of 8 per cent.
Gold Coast room rates increased by 8 per cent with occupancy rates reaching 71 per cent.
Takings rose by 15 per cent to almost $100 million.
The report rated the Sunshine Coast's performance as "relatively disappointing".
While takings increased by 7 per cent and room rates by 6 per cent, those takings were 5 per cent below the increase for the state as a whole.
Research on overseas visitor nights revealed a statewide increase of 9 per cent for the year to June, 2004, with Brisbane and the Gold Coast scoring a 10 per cent increase.
Cairns suffered a 7 per cent decline but still recorded the highest number in the state.
The Midwood report also found the origin of overseas tourists dictated where they were likely to stay.
Japanese and New Zealand holidaymakers preferred the theme parks and beaches of the Gold Coast while Brisbane was popular with Europeans visiting relatives.
The reef and rainforest near Cairns was a drawcard for Japanese, European and American tourists while the Sunshine Coast and Whitsundays were popular among visitors from the UK.