BIG CHALLENGE NOW IS TO HAVE TOURISTS SPEND MORE

BIG CHALLENGE NOW IS TO HAVE TOURISTS SPEND MORE

Gold Coast Tourism (GCT) has laid plans to double tourism revenue to the city by 2020, but apart from attracting more visitors, the challenge it faces is to have them stay longer and spend more money.

And while international tourist numbers have strengthened over the past year, the Gold Coast is up against some solid domestic competition with Melbourne seen as one of the unlikely markets taking business away from the Coast.

But GCT chairman Paul Donovan agrees with demographer Bernard Salt who recently pronounced the Gold Coast is on the cusp of the next phase of success and says GCT is ready to capitalise on it. 

"In my eighth year as chairman of Gold Coast Tourism, without a doubt today I have never been more positive about the future of our industry - the sector underpins the local economy to the tune of $4.8 billion, it supports 8700 local tourism businesses and employs over 35,000 full-time employees," says Donovan, speaking at a tourism industry update hosted by GCT, the city's peak tourism body.

"It is the single biggest driver in the economy that we are fortunate to live in. Obviously we have to widen the scope and get more into education and medical, but at the moment we need to make sure that the main driving engine keeps pushing our destination."

According to the latest tourism survey, the Gold Coast achieved $1.02 billion in direct tourist spending from international markets in 2014.

Tourism Research Australia's International Visitor Survey shows the Gold Coast increased international visitation by 7 per cent to 847,000 for the year ending December 2014 - set against a state-wide increase of 5.5 per cent for the same period.

The Gold Coast also saw its international visitors staying longer, with visitor nights growing more than 9 percent to 771,000 - the highest reported increase within Queensland for 2014.

Priority markets of China and New Zealand continued to provide the bulk of the city's growth with China increasing 8.2 per cent to 202,000 visitors, and New Zealand increasing 7.8 per cent to 193,000 visitors.

While there was strong growth in international tourists, the total numbers were impacted by a decline of Australia and domestic travel.

"I am not trying to dodge the issue here - unfortunately this was offset by weaker domestic results and we will be addressing this with a matter of urgency in the coming financial year," says Gold Coast Tourism CEO Martin Winter (pictured right).

"Domestic tourism is by far the most important part of our business. We get more than 3.5 million domestic visitors every year and we have to make sure we keep it up and keep our eye on the ball to make sure this continues to grow.

"Victoria, which is driven by this enduring love affair that Australians seem to have with Melbourne, once again dominated performance and we are considering very carefully about what the drivers are for the Gold Coast."

Winter says that through the Tourism Management Plan, an initiative of GCT, the Queensland Government and Gold Coast City Council, the city will maintain its position as the country's most successful, robust and productive tourism destination.

"The Gold Coast tourism industry has no time for a glass-half-empty attitude and we will tackle the future head on," says Winter.

John O'Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, says demand for Australia as a whole is growing, which is reflected in record visitor numbers in the first half of 2015.

"This year we have had record numbers of visitors - just over 7 million visitors to the year end to May 2015 and also, and most importantly, we have seen expenditure rise to record levels of around $31 billion," he says.

Tourism Australia says its key priorities are: driving growth from Asia while keeping an eye on traditional markets; understanding the consumer and continuing research-based methodology to roll out marketing campaigns; increasing partnerships and building a bigger relationship with Austrade.

Last year GCT spent 84 per cent of its available resources on marketing and conducted 86 individual campaigns in China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Middle East, South East Asia and Australia.

GCT says it will soon start work on developing a cross-agency Gold Coast China plan covering the tourism, education, property, construction, aviation, exports and investment sectors.

Highlighting the importance of the glitter strip to the national tourism economy, the Australian Tourism Exchange is set to be held for the first time on the Gold Coast next year. It is only the second time in its 37-year history that the even has been held outside of a metropolitan city.

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