Key Industries

Industries that drive Cairns and the tropics are diverse, ranging from tourism and health through to agriculture and education.


Tropical fruits, sugar, coffee, fishing, grass-fed beef, free-range pork and dairy have long been part of the agriculture industry in Tropical North Queensland, while new exotic crops include cacao and vanilla. Food processing is also innovating with banana flour the newest food product in a region producing smoked meats, charcuterie and award-winning spirits.


Tropical North Queensland is the ideal location for tropical forest science, biopharmaceuticals, tropical health, tropical foods and natural resource management. James Cook University, home of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, the Australian Tropical Forest Institute and the Australian Tropical Herbarium, conducts internationally acclaimed research into these areas.


With two World Heritage areas flanking a narrow coastal strip, the construction industry in Tropical North Queensland is adept at architecture and engineering in environmentally sensitive areas. The industry’s tropical expertise extends to successfully working in a humid climate with high seasonal rainfall and cyclones.

Education and Training

Study tourism is a vital component of the local economy with international students choosing to study in a destination where they can enjoy a tropical lifestyle and explore World Heritage areas in their free time. Cairns has two universities – James Cook University and Central Queensland University – the Great Barrier Reef International Marine College and TAFE North. Apprenticeships, traineeships, industry-based training and courses for domestic and international students cover a wide range of topics and areas of expertise.


Tourism management and training in environmentally sensitive areas is an area of expertise in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef. Innovative programs like the Savannah Guides and the Master Reef Guides provide focused training for guide interpretation in our World Heritage areas. Tour operators also assist in managing the environment they work in with scientific monitoring and by assisting in research.


Tropical Health and Medicine

Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region is home to the Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, offering programs encompassing public health, bimolecular, clinical, and translational health systems research. Research is conducted across several James Cook University centres exploring key areas including tropical infectious diseases, health security and biosecurity, chronic disorders with high prevalence in the tropics, genetic diseases and health services in regional and remote communities.

Meeting Planner Guide

The Meeting Planners Guide

Your go-to publication to plan your next conference, meeting, incentive or event in the region.