Tourism body CEO Annaliese Battista told Accom News that the fact the two parties had agreed to mutually end negotiations now provided the Gold Coast with certainty around exploring other sustainable tourism development opportunities.
Battista commended the state government for not closing the door on discussions with Star Entertainment on the much-needed expansion of the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The future of tourism on the Gold Coast relies on continued investment and the delivery of The Star’s $2 billion-plus Gold Coast masterplan affords us with significant economic benefits for the region.
By 2038, Star Entertainment has pledged to the government that it would deliver:
- $2.2 billion masterplan
- 9000 construction jobs
- 2800 operational jobs
- 650 additional hotel rooms
- 2000 luxury apartments
The Star Entertainment Group Chairman John O’Neill AO said the company and its partners have already committed around $4.5 billion to reinvigorate tourism in South East Queensland.
Investments include Brisbane’s Queen’s Wharf; and on the Gold Coast, the refurbishment of The Star Grand hotel, the opening of The Darling hotel, and ongoing construction of the Dorsett hotel and apartments tower.
“We have confidence in the future of tourism and, under the right conditions, will continue to invest through our $2 billion-plus Gold Coast masterplan that will help government deliver further significant economic benefits for Queensland including thousands of jobs,” says O’Neill.
Meanwhile, in a separate but related issue, plans for a Global Tourism Hub on the Gold Coast have been shelved.
In a statement last Saturday, State Development Minister Kate Jones said: “Through the exclusive negotiation process for a Gold Coast Global Tourism Hub we worked really hard to extract value from The Star, but the deal on the table did not stack up for taxpayers.”In March, the Palaszcuzuk Government began a worldwide search for the best proposal to deliver a Global Tourism Hub on the Gold Coast. The hub was part of the government’s plan to boost domestic and international visitation to the Gold Coast and create thousands of new jobs.
“Global market conditions are clearly impacting investment at present and I can confirm that this government has no intention of reviving the market process for a new integrated resort – including a second casino – on the Gold Coast,” says Jones.
Accom News asked Ms Battista if putting a halt to the Global Tourism Hub market process was a backwards step for tourism development on the Gold Coast.
“Not necessarily,” says Battista.
“There are many big ideas for new attractions on the Gold Coast.
“It is very important that these ideas are explored with an open mind and with extensive community and visitor consultation.
“The Gold Coast has more than 140 natural and manmade attractions, as well as plenty of quality resort options, so there is an abundance of activities for all tastes, budgets and personal circumstances without an additional casino.
Battista said it would take many years to recover from the economic and social impacts of COVID-19.
“Tourism has borne the brunt of these adverse effects not just locally but on a global scale,” she says.
“At a time of significant disruption and changes in market conditions – and with international tourism not on the cards for some time – the domestic traveller market must be prioritised.”
The Gold Coast was “at a critical juncture as we emerge from crisis into kick-starting the region’s largest economic driver, which is tourism”.
Battista told Accom News that accommodation occupancy had been improving on the Gold Coast since June when the tourist hotspot started experiencing weekend spikes.
“Unfortunately, the region hasn’t been able to fully capitalise on the winter school holiday period as there is just one week of NSW school holidays remaining since the Queensland border opened,” says Battista.
“However, over the past few days we have seen an uptick in enquiries and a gradual improvement in occupancy across the board, so we are cautiously optimistic that this will continue.”
However, according to Battista, it could potentially take three years before domestic tourism numbers return to pre-COVID figures, and therefore pre-crisis occupancy levels.
“Ongoing travel and social restrictions, any further COVID-19 outbreaks along with consumer confidence, are all factors that determine how quickly the tourism sector can bounce-back.