IT'S been five years in the making, but Echo Entertainment Group (ASX:EGP) is finally breaking ground on its proposed redevelopment of Jupiters Hotel & Casino.

Echo chairman John O'Neill this morning kicked off the casino group's plans to build a 17-storey six-star hotel on the eastern side of the existing casino complex.

The project, first mooted by Echo's former parent Tabcorp (ASX:TAH) in 2010, is part of the company's planned $345 million investment in the Gold Coast ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The new hotel will feature high-end hotel suites, new private gaming rooms with butler services, as well as a range of new bars and restaurants.

"We are committed to positioning Jupiters as a world-class integrated resort and assist in the exciting transformation of the Gold Coast before, during and after its hosting of the 2018 Commonwealth Games," says O'Neill.

"Our six-star hotel tower has a construction completion date that will ensure its readiness for the Commonwealth Games. The tower will offer new levels of luxury and only the best in finishes and amenities, not to mention six-star service."

The project, to be delivered by Probuild, is expected to create 1700 temporary and permanent jobs, including 500 during construction.

The planned upgrade at Jupiters comes in the face of stiff competition ahead for the casino property.

This will come firstly from Echo's own property, the proposed $2 billion Brisbane's Queen's Wharf mega-casino development, and from a second Gold Coast casino earmarked by ASF Consortium at The Spit.

The move also comes on the heels of Echo gaining a bigger share of the high roller market which helped the company lift its FY15 net profit by 59 per cent to $169 million.

Echo Entertainment CEO Matt Bekier says the Gold Coast project has been designed to create broad domestic an international appeal to the destination.

"These are exciting times for the Gold Coast and we're delighted to be playing what we believe will be a key role in advancing the growth of tourism and jobs creation in the region," he says.

The new hotel is expected to boost Jupiters' workforce from 1600 to about 2000.

Echo's Queensland boss Geoff Hogg has announced plans to bolster the region's tourism capabilities with the establishment of a hospitality school on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane from next year.

Echo has proposed a new hotel tower at Jupiters since 2010, originally tying the development to the Gold Coast securing the Commonwealth Games.

The company has spent the past year refurbishing hotel rooms in the existing property, along with upgrading the lobby-level restaurants, with the opening of Kiyomi and Cucina Vivo, and an upgrade of the pool area.

Hogg says the new hotel tower will be a cut above the current hotel offerings on the Gold Coast. Some of the bigger suites will have three and four bedrooms with large balconies, making them the largest hotel-rooms in the city.

"The Gold Coast's reputation as a must-visit destination continues to strengthen with both leisure and business travellers, so we are working to create a broad offering that will help to support this well into the future," says Hogg.

"We are also creating spaces that cater to the specific needs of individual travellers with some suites to include home offices, extra family rooms, theatres or even private karaoke parlours.

"Suites will also be equipped with digital signage, allowing guests the flexibility to change in-room information into many different languages.

"We are also working on six-star room service, to allow guests to order from any restaurant across the property, or one of the new restaurants, and enjoy dining on their balcony overlooking the Gold Coast skyline."


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