SUNS A SHINING LIGHT FOR THE GOLD COAST: KENNETT

THE Gold Coast has lost its buzz, says former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett (pictured). But he has a solution.

In a frank assessment of the city’s fortunes issued to business leaders, the keen AFL supporter says the Coast has to capitalise on its most recognisable brand to stir excitement – and he isn’t talking about a red dot.

Kennett says the most recognisable face the Coast has at the moment is the city’s AFL club, The Suns.

He says excitement built around the club alone has already given people a reason to visit the tourism strip.

Suns chairman John Witheriff backs up the claim, saying The Suns in the past three years alone has been responsible for 160,000 visitor stays on the Coast and an injected $100 million into the local economy.

“I don’t get a sense externally that there’s a buzz here,” Kennett tells business leaders gathered at Metricon Stadium for a Young Professionals Gold Coast luncheon.

“The first person to put this community on the map was Bruce Small.”

Small, a long-time mayor of the Coast during the 60s and 70s, was famous for promotional tours of southern states while accompanied by bikini-clad meter maids.

“In real terms (Small) gave the Gold Coast a reason to be,” Kennett says.

He says while those days are gone, the most recognisable “face of the Gold Coast” has now is the city’s AFL team The Suns.

He says there is opportunity for business leaders to work with the club to send the message of a community that is working together.

Kennett also urges organisations such as the Young Professionals to do more to sell the city as well, by undertaking roadshows, in conjunction with the city council, and speaking directly to key business communities across Australia.

“It’s a very cluttered space out there and, with the dollar the way it is, so many people when they think of going anywhere go anywhere but Australia, let alone the Gold Coast,” Kennett says.

“It’s easy to fly overseas. That will change in time, but you got to develop a reason why (people visit the Coast). It’s got to be an exciting place.”

As for the Commonwealth Games, which were last held in Australia in Melbourne during his tenure as Victorian Premier,

Kennett warns the Coast not to cut corners if wants to leave its mark as a host city in 2018.

“Do what you do professionally,” he says.

“If you cut corners you end up delivering something less than best.”

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