Tourist survives knifing at Qld hostel

Nicholas McElroy and Tracey Ferrier

A South American backpacker has survived an apparently random stabbing at a hostel in Queensland's far north, with the knife missing major arteries by millimetres.

A Cairns hostel worker, 36, has been charged with attempted murder and sexual assault after a Chilean woman was stabbed on Monday.

Police allege the man stabbed the 26-year-old when the pair spilled from Gecko's Backpacker and onto a footpath about 11am.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ed Kinbacher says the suspect fled and was caught more than a kilometre away.

"The woman is lucky to be alive," he told media of the apparently random attack.

"There was nothing before this event which indicated its likely occurrence, nor are these people known to each other."

The woman has undergone surgery for serious stab wounds which he says missed major arteries in her neck by millimetres.

"It was happenstance, pure luck she is still with us," Det Sen Sgt Kinbacher said.

The woman arrived in Australia with a female friend 10 days ago and had been in Cairns for about three days.

Two off-duty nurses also on holiday helped the woman after she was stabbed.

Det Sen Sgt Kinbacher says the attack was a "stupid act of violence".

"Clearly this is a psychologically and physically scarring incident that she'll carry for some time," he said.

"This is an awful offence, (for) a young woman who has just arrived in Cairns here to enjoy what this community offers and within a short period of time through no fault of her own she is finding herself with a life-threatening injury through a stupid act of violence."

The man was remanded in custody after facing Cairns Magistrates Court on Tuesday. His case was adjourned to October 2.

Gecko's Backpackers did not wish to comment.

The Chilean Embassy and the woman's family have been notified.