NICE ONE, NOOSA
Domestic tourists fall back in love with coastal icon
The “new” Noosa is claiming top spot in the battle for the tourism dollar as holidaymakers fall back in love with the beach town. The region has experienced a 15.7 per cent increase in domestic visitor numbers while the rest of Queensland has dropped in popularity. Domestic visitor data reveals the Gold Coast had a 5.6 per cent decline in Aussie travellers in the March quarter. Townsville dropped 7.1 per cent, tropical north Queensland was up 0.2 per cent, Fraser Coast was down 11.6 per cent and the Whitsundays down 13.1 per cent. Noosa also fared better than the “rest” of the Sunshine Coast which had a 7.3 per cent increase in domestic holidaymakers.
The tourism boost comes on the back of a $100 million investment in the area which includes resort makeovers, new restaurants and improved retail space. Tourism Noosa said much of Noosa’s increase was bigspending interstate visitors flocking back to their former playground, with numbers up 22 per cent. Melbourne travellers, in particular, increased 53 per cent on the back of a targeted advertising campaign that included a Noosa tram circling the CBD.
Tourism Noosa chief executive Damien Massingham said Noosa was “alive again” and leading domestic tourism growth in Queensland after years of struggle from the global financial crisis. Mr Massingham said domestic visitors were coming back to enjoy more than $100 million in refurbishments and new businesses around Hastings St. “There are two new restaurants Miss Moneypenny’s and Locale, Seahaven resort has invested in its property and the Sheraton underwent $10 million refurbishment,” he said. “We’ve been able to go to interstate markets and say Noosa is alive again.
We’ve got a great natural product that will never change, but not only that we have great manmade products with world- class facilities.” Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa general manager Stephen Ferrigno said the fivestar resort was on track for the best summer bookings in its 25-year history. Already September bookings are up 33 per cent and December is up 70 per cent on last year. Mr Ferrigno said the GFC had forced tourism operators to reinvent themselves after coasting along for too many years. “Now every week our future forecasting is increasing because business is booming,” he said.
Miss Moneypenny’s restaurant owner Ben Walsh said he chose to open two years ago because he sensed a turnaround was imminent. “Hastings St did go through a period where people who came back every year were getting the same things and there was not a lot of fresh blood,” Mr Walsh said. “Our end was a bit of a ghost town but now the new restaurants are attracting new retailers and there are more options for people. “We’ve had constant steady increase and this winter we expect to be up about 25 per cent on last winter.”
Noosa is the “go-to” destination for the Wicher family from Melbourne who book beachside accommodation and walk everywhere. “It’s just easy with the kids. The shops are here, the beach is here, it’s calm, clean, it’s just so easy with a family,” Sarah Wicher said. “It’s the middle of the year and the weather’s perfect – not too hot, not too cold. “We were booked in for Bali and I was really worried how hot it was going to be and cleanliness and I was really relieved when we cancelled (the Bali trip).”
However Gold Coast Tourism boss Martin Winter said his city remained the most popular overall tourism destination for both domestic and international visitors, recording more than 11 million holidaymakers. “The domestic market does continue to be a challenge but overall the Gold Coast continues to outperform the rest of Queensland,” he said.
Sunshine Coast Councillor Jason O’Pray said the Sunshine Coast was also “kicking its own goals” with 10 per cent quarterly growth for each of the past five quarters. “I’m very excited for both regions but the Sunshine Coast is sustained growth that we have proven in recent quarters,” he said.
Article written by: KATHLEEN DONAGHEY
Main picture: Megan Slade
Published in the Courier Mail 24.7.2015