Gold Coast sharpening up for “cat fight” with cashed-up tourism rivals

The Gold Coast is sharpening its claws for a “cat fight” for the domestic tourism dollar that is expected to erupt when travel restrictions are relaxed.

May 06, 2020, updated May 06, 2020
Premier Annastacia palaszczuk has announced the Queensland border will be open to Victorians from December 1.  (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Premier Annastacia palaszczuk has announced the Queensland border will be open to Victorians from December 1. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

The Gold Coast has already fired its first shots to attract tourists back again after the COVID-19 travel shutdown amid fears rival tourism hot spots with cashed-up marketing budgets may cannibalise the traditional Gold Coast market.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday flagged a possible return to interstate travel as soon as the June school holidays.

Morrison said he would welcome state border restrictions being lifted as soon as possible for interstate tourism, and applied pressure to state premiers not to stand in the way by delaying the opening of borders to tourists.

“Hopefully by the end of term school holidays, if they are able to go and have a holiday on the Gold Coast … or wherever it happens to be out of one’s home state, let’s hope that that’s possible because that will be great for those places in terms of the tourism impact,” Morrison said.

Following discussions with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Morrison also mooted a trans-Tasman travel bubble could coincide with the opening of state borders, allowing safe travel between Australia and New Zealand.

Chief executive of tourism destination marketing organisation Destination Gold Coast, Annaliese Battista, told ABC Gold Coast that Queensland’s tourism playground had been “preparing and sharpening our claws” for fierce competition for domestic and New Zealand travellers when restrictions were lifted.

She said she expected a snap decision and tourism operators should be ready to capitalise with a very short turnaround time between chief health officers recommending the lifting of restrictions and governments acting to open borders.

She said the Gold Coast was already working to attract a lion’s share of domestic holidaymakers by targeting families who have been cooped up for months.

Destination Gold Coast had released a YouTube video under the slogan, “Let’s play again soon,” that tapped into the core market of families by recreating scenes of parents and children in home isolation finally finding freedom to play again at the Gold Coast.

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The video has attracted more than 730,000 views in six days and showed there was “red hot demand that we hope we can tap into,” Battista said.

Tourism losses to the Gold Coast’s $5.9 billion tourism industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have so far been estimated at $1.8 billion.

Battista said domestic travel makes up 92 per cent of travellers to the Gold Coast. Of 14.2 million visitors to the Gold Coast in 2019, a record 4.2 million were domestic overnight visitors. Almost 9 million visits came from the drive market. A further 212,000 visitors to the Gold Coast in 2019 came from New Zealand.

“It is really crucial that we get back out there quickly and make sure that we can drive volume and spend to the Gold Coast as soon as possible to get the sector back on its feet again and get the Gold Coast economy moving again,” Battista said.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and ideas

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