HOTELIERS and investors have spent little money refurbishing and developing the nation's beach resorts, but domestic tourists are returning to flop-and-drop destinations, with research showing the Whitsundays, Port Douglas, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie are back in favour.
As the dollar drops against the greenback, the nation's $95 billion tourism industry is also expected to draw more foreign visitors, according to tourism executives such as Sandy Oatley, the owner of Queensland's Hamilton Island. "It all helps," Mr Oatley said this week.
Overall revenue per available room - the standard industry measure - at the nation's beach resorts increased 13.6 per cent in the March quarter due to higher occupancies and a 6.3 per cent growth in room rates, according to the TTF-Hostplus National Accommodation Barometer, released today.
Port Douglas in north Queensland was the strongest performer, with revenue per available room up 38.4 per cent in the March quarter, driven by a 21 per cent rise in room rates and a drop in the number of available rooms. Resorts in Queensland's Whitsundays reported 13.2 per cent growth in revenue per available room.
Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Ken Morrison said it had been the best summer in five years for beach destinations.
In contrast, revenue per available room in mining and resource centres such as Western Australia's Pilbara and Kalgoorlie regions and Queensland's Mackay and Gladstone districts dropped an average 14.4 per cent as occupancies slid 13 per cent compared to the 2012 March quarter. However, it is not all grim news for the mining capitals.
Darwin's revenue per available room growth was 28 per cent in the March quarter.
Revenue per available room in Cairns grew a healthy 12.2 per cent and even the Gold Coast, which has struggled for several years to draw tourists, reports 10.6 per cent growth in revenue per available room in the March quarter. But some cities struggled. Although Canberra has had few new hotel rooms added to its supply in recent years, its revenue per available room fell 4.7 per cent for the quarter, with the city struggling with weak occupancies of 69.9 per cent in the quarter, well down on the highs of 80.2 per cent achieved in the first quarter of 2010.
Regional destinations such as South Australia's much-hyped Kangaroo Island were also down. Revenue per available room dropped 6.5 per cent in the March quarter with rates dropping nearly 4 per cent.
But high-profile tourism executive James Baillie, owner of the luxury Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, reports revenue per available room at his resort is up 6 per cent.
"I have no idea how or where they get such information from," Mr Baillie said.
Broome enjoyed a 24 per cent spike in revenue per available room with occupancies and room rates lifting.
"This was the strongest low season since 2008 and reflects the strength observed in other domestic leisure markets over the most recent summer," the TTF-Hostplus report said.
And while Darwin is performing well, the Kakadu Arnhem region reports a 15.8 per cent drop in revenue per available room in the March quarter.
"Shifting consumer demand (is) driving a sharp 17.3 point decline in occupancy over the past five years - from 42.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 to 24.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2013," the report said.
Of the wine regions, Western Australia's Margaret River was a solid performer with revenue per available room up 10.5 per cent in the March quarter.
This compared to NSW's Hunter Valley where revenue per available room grew less than 1 per cent over the March quarter.