ECHO Entertainment Group this week launched its latest salvo in the Gold Coast’s emerging casino war with plans for a six-star hotel finally set to go next year.

While the finer details have yet to be revealed, the new property is poised to become the new home for big-whale punters on the Gold Coast when it opens ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Echo has made a tentative start to its $345 million redevelopment of the Broadbeach property, kicking off with a massive makeover of the pool area and the closure of two restaurants to make way for new dining offerings by the end of this year.

But the transformation will be stepped up a notch next year with the development of a new six-star hotel at the front of the property in a bid to lure more big-spending high-rollers from interstate and overseas.

Echo’s Queensland managing director Geoff Hogg says the capital works program will include an overhaul of Jupiters existing 592 hotel rooms to be completed by Christmas 2015.

That process temporarily will take out of operation three floors of the property.

The refurbishment plans include a makeover of the Italian restaurant Osteria Vivo to incorporate a west-facing balcony overlooking the revamped swimming pool, and the inclusion of a new Japanese restaurant overlooking the atrium.

But Hogg sees the new six-star hotel as a game-changer for Jupiters, and the Gold Coast, in terms of providing a complete upmarket hotel experience.

The new hotel has been on the drawing boards for about four years, but Echo has aligned the new design with the latest needs of the lucrative high-roller market.

Hogg says the hotel, to be located at the front of the existing building, will house two high-end restaurants and a private gaming room that will cater to every whim of guests.

Hogg says until a year ago, Echo’s focus had been on The Star in Sydney which has seen its VIP business thrive.

He says the new hotel, to be fully operational six months ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, will feature larger rooms, luxury fixtures and fittings and a level of service that begins at the airport.

“This is designed to assist us to attract both the high-end domestic and international customers, including those that are high-end gaming customers,” Hogg tells Gold Coast Business News.

“By relocating our existing private gaming rooms out of the existing facility it gives us a lot more flexibility in the design to meet the changing needs of that market.

“The key when people discuss six-star is the quality of services that we offer – from the moment they arrive at the airport to how guests are serviced and looked after throughout the whole experience.

“The extra service levels are a big component of what drives the success of a six-star hotel.”

Hogg says Echo is not giving much thought to the possibility of new competition in the Gold Coast market, with ASF Consortium given the green light for a new casino if it can get its cruise-ship terminal proposal in the Broadwater off the ground.

Hogg argues that the VIP market is already “aggressive” along the east coast of Australia.

“Our designs have been done to offer the quality of experience our customers are looking for domestically and internationally already and, to be honest, we haven’t spent a lot of time worrying too much about competition down the road,” he says.

“We’ve had some positive results (for Jupiters) over the past six to seven months which we are pleased about and we are very focused on the rejuvenation of the Jupiters property.

“While we have talked a lot about rejuvenating the pool area and hotel rooms, we see food as a key part of attracting people to destinations.

“The new restaurants are all about increasing the quality of attractions and offerings of the property. Our challenge is to continue to revitalise our offering.

“You can spend money developing some very attractive outlets, but it’s the quality of the food and the ability of the team to really engage with customers that makes people come back.

“We’re going to make sure we deliver an engaging experience.”

Hogg, who oversees both Jupiters and Treasury casinos since the departure of former Jupiters managing director Aaron Gomes earlier this year, says he doesn’t see the need for a dedicated managing director on the Gold Coast to achieve this.

Hogg, who is based in Brisbane, has been with Echo for the past six years.

He spends a great deal of his time on the Gold Coast since his appointment to the role of Queensland managing director.

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