Gold Coast tourism hub shelved by government

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
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Plans for a global tourism hub on the Gold Coast are no more, with the Queensland Government confirming they have ended negotiations with the Star Entertainment Group over the hub.

My GC reports that the state’s development minister Kate Jones made the announcement from the Gold Coast on Saturday morning, revealing the two parties had come to “mutual agreement” to conclude their lengthy discussions.

“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,” she said.

In October 2019, The Star offered to commit to the rest of its $2 billion Gold Coast masterplan, which included a $100 million upgrade and expansion of the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, in exchange for casino exclusivity.

But after months of talks, the Queensland government confirmed they would not agree to The Star being the city’s only casino for at least the next 30 years.

“We were not able to reach consensus around the terms for long-term casino licence exclusivity,” Ms Jones said.

“Global market conditions are clearly impacting investment at present and I can confirm that this government has no intention of receiving the market process for a new integrated resort – including a second casino – on the Gold Coast.”

The Star Entertainment Group chairman John O’Neill said the company and its partners have already committed around $4.5 billion to reinvigorate tourism in south east Queensland.

“Investments in Queen’s Wharf Brisbane alongside those on the Gold Coast where we’ve refurbished The Star Grand hotel, opened The Darling hotel and the Dorsett hotel and apartments tower under construction are proof of our commitment to creating world-class tourism and entertainment destinations that will bring more than a million additional visitors to Queensland every year,” Mr O’Neill said.

“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.”

Ms Jones said the Queensland government would continue to work with the City of Gold Coast and local businesses to support tourism investment in the city.

Domestic high rollers the new focus for Gold Coast casino

Gold Coast casino bosses say they are focusing on luring domestic high rollers with Chinese ‘whales’ – the term used for rich gamblers – not expected back in Australia for another year.

The ABC reported in July and said The Star Gold Coast was busy when it reopened its doors last Friday with another influx expected this Friday when the Queensland border reopens to interstate visitors – with the exception of Victorians, who are dealing with an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.

The Star’s group executive of operations, Geoff Hogg, said hundreds of hotel rooms were booked, restaurants were full, and he was expecting more visitors from Friday.

“It’s a good milestone with the border opening and hopefully getting more demand into the city,” Mr Hogg said.

“We had a couple of restaurants open and The Darling Hotel [during lockdowns], but now to be operating a lot closer to full capacity is fantastic.”

The senior executive of more than 20 years in the casino game said the continued closure of international borders would impact on the group’s bottom line.

“Our international guests make anywhere up to 10 to 12 per cent of our business,” he said.

“It’s millions of dollars in our earnings and that’s quite significant.

“We all understand that part of our market is not going to be there for a lengthy period of time.

“We know that international tourism is certainly not something that we can rely on for at least a year.”

When the international borders do reopen there is no guarantee Chinese tourists will return in the same number after China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued an alert in June, reporting a “significant increase” in racist attacks on “Chinese and Asian people” due to COVID-19.

The warning came after China’s state-run tabloid Global Times published an editorial.

“The Ministry of Culture and Tourism reminds Chinese tourists to enhance their safety awareness and do not travel to Australia,” it said.

Tourism Research Australia said more than 1.3 million Chinese – excluding children – visited Australia in 2018 and spent $11.5 billion.

Mr Hogg said Chinese tourists were critical to Australia.

“Anything that holds that back is concerning,” he said.

“When international travel comes back you want all of those markets to be available.

“We have a lot of operators in Queensland, and on the Gold Coast, that heavily rely on those markets so you’d like to think that that isn’t impacted.”

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