2018 Games set to Boost Coast but Caution is Needed

The news of The Gold Coast’s successful bid to host The 2018 Commonwealth Games was met, as you would expect, by almost universal acclaim except, perhaps, in the tiny Sri Lankan sea-side town of Hambantota that came second.

There were scenes of jubilation at Broadwater Parklands where 7000 supporters gathered to hear the announcement and where revellers danced and cheered into the night. On hearing the news in St Kitts, Anna Bligh leapt to her feet and screamed with joy. She has been a fervent supporter of the bid from the outset, touting the games as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the Gold Coast’ and ‘vitally important to its future’.

Indeed, promises made by the government in regards to the benefits that the games will bring to the Gold Coast are impressive. We are told that a $2 billion economic injection will be pumped into the city and that 30,000 jobs will be created. This would certainly bring a much needed adrenaline boost to the Gold Coast’s ailing business sector. Some Gold Coast business operators have gone so far as to claim the dawn of a new era of prosperity, saying that the news has come just in time to save many tourist operations.

There is, however, a danger inherent in such assumptions. They assume that the games will be the silver bullet for which so many have been waiting.

Perhaps a more sanguine approach is required? Some observers have questioned whether there will be any economic benefit at all. In particular, what effect will the games have on our tourism and accommodation sector?

The construction required to create the facilities and infrastructure necessary to host the games will undoubtedly create jobs. The word is that work on the $650 million games village at Parklands will begin as early as February, so the effect could be sooner rather than later. Next to tourism, building has been the sector worst hit by the economic downturn, so these jobs will be well received. As jobs are created and workers return to the coast, demand for residential accommodation will increase. This will hopefully begin to fill the current excess of rental accommodation and possibly help stimulate some entry level sales.

The extent of the planned development work is significant. There is a 15,000 seat extension to the Metricon Stadium, a $40 million re-development of the aquatic centre, upgrades to sports centres in Coomera and Broadbeach, new world-class squash, badminton and mountain bike facilities and substantial investment in transport infrastructure. Local businesses operating in supporting sectors such as IT should also benefit.

Whether this cash injection and job creation will be sufficient to reinflate the Gold Coast’s burst real estate bubble is questionable. The amount of stock currently available indicates that it might only be a small help. However, a small help is better than none!

Much of the focus of the bid has focussed on how the games will provide a much-needed boost to the Gold Coast’s critically important tourism sector. Ms Bligh stated that ‘The games will bring superb tourism opportunities for the Gold Coast and Queensland’. Few would question that it is a prime opportunity to display our wonderful attractions and world-class beaches to the world; the Gold Coast will undoubtedly provide a spectacular backdrop to the games and remind people about the attraction of visiting South East Queensland.

The point that must be borne in mind, however, is that our scenery has never been our problem. Our beaches have remained beautiful and the sea is still warm. Our problems have been the strength of the dollar and an Australian tourist who has started choosing more exotic destinations. It’s bloody fantastic that the Gold Coast has been granted this opportunity and I wait with anticipation to see how it will adapt and change over the next seven years.

The future and, indeed, the salvation of the Gold Coast lies with the emerging middle classes of China and India. These are the people whom we must encourage to visit our shores and enjoy a tourism experience which they will carry home to their peers. We have to ensure that when these people come, their cultural needs are catered to and the infrastructure is in place to accommodate them and that they are treated honourably and with respect.

The games will be a positive factor but we must make sure the infrastructure created benefits the area for decades to come, not just the games. Let’s also take the opportunity to up-grade our existing tourist accommodation in the lead-up to the games. Although few doubt there are sufficient rooms, many would question the quality of some. We need to ensure that the 130,000 attendees to the games return for further holidays and that when the tourists from India and China begin to come in increasing numbers, as I am certain they will, that we are ready for them.

We may not get a second chance.

Alex Cook
Resort Brokers Australia 

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