It’s time to rethink what the Gold Coast offers to tourists and shift the focus away from the surf and sand.
Professor Becken and Dr Gardiner argue that if the famed Gold Coast wants to maintain its position as a world class tourist location, more must be done to compete with the ever growing number of worldwide holiday destinations.
In last year’s budget, the Queensland Government announced $33.5 million additional funding for tourism over four years to attract new visitors from Asia. The Coast also benefited from major infrastructure investments, including the extension of the light rail and a range of Commonwealth Games Facilities.
“So, with that tailwind and a globally booming tourism industry, how is the Gold Coast investing in its tourism future?” Professor Beck and Dr Gardiner ask.
“To make informed decisions it is important to ask the customers themselves what they want.
“78% of visitors to the Gold Coast come from elsewhere in Australia. Domestic tourism remains the industry’s bread and butter.
“Whilst developing the Asian markets adds icing to the cake, the Gold Coast as a destination can only thrive if it has domestic appeal.”
Researchers from the Griffith Institute for Tourism recently surveyed 1759 Australians from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to better understand what they wanted from a Gold Coast holiday.
The natural environment features highly, with visiting the rainforest top priority for 40 per cent of respondents.
“Currently, rainforest experiences in the Gold Coast hinterland are very limited, indicating a major development opportunity,” wrote Professor Susanne Becken and Dr Sarah Gardiner.
Dining experiences were also important to potential visitors, with a beach view completing the ideal meal.
Niche market attractions, such as artificial reefs, cruise ship holidays or mountain bike parks were of limited mass appeal. The results showed that more research was needed to determine the benefit of these opportunities for selected markets, particularly where capital costs ware large.
Both Professor Becken and Dr Gardiner agree that the Gold Coast has a major opportunity with the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“However transformation or rebranding does not come without some hard questions and exploring new territory.
“The role of research, including through monitoring of visitor trends against sustainable targets, is critical.”