FEDERAL Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson believes the Gold Coast’s once flourishing tourism sector is in good hands despite a decrease in tourism numbers.

The Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism was on the Gold Coast today to speak at a tourism luncheon at the Q Deck atop the Q1 building.

Ferguson told industry heavyweights that the Gold Coast had done well with Federal Government funding, noting the $365 million commitment to the light rail project and the rebuilding of the $144 million Carrara Stadium.

Ferguson used the opportunity to talk up Tourism Australia’s (TA) TQUAL initiative, which aims to bolster support for SME tourism operators rural and regional Australia.

“We have invested $40 million over four years to regional areas to match dollar for dollar investments by local operators. Today there was a $100,000 contribution made to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.”

Currumbin Wildlife Centre CEO Jonathan Fisher, says the funds were integral to help the centre expand and to compete on a global stage.

“There’s no doubt that without this funding, the project would not have stacked up,” he says.

Ferguson reiterated the commitment of the program and the context of the Gold Coast within the larger TA framework.

“The Gold Coast is exceptionally important, it’s viable,” he says.

“The Gold Coast is now featured in our international marketing campaign (‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’) as it should have been all along. We changed the structure of Tourism Australia, we have a new CEO (Andrew McEvoy) and a strong board.”

Ferguson, who has two of the nation’s key economic drivers on his portfolio with mining and tourism, has called for a more unified voice for travel operators, similar to that demonstrated by the natural resources sector.

“One of my objectives over the last two and a half years has been to reduce infighting in the different tourism organisations, to actually to get them to come together to speak with one voice and focus on working together and think I have made some progress there,” he says.

“At a regional level I generally think the tourism industry works together. The consensus is that we should have one strong tourism organisation with everyone working together. We have made a hell of a lot of progress and put pressure on industry.”

Ferguson was quick to point out that Tourism Australia is now at the Cabinet table for the first time.

Gold Coast Tourism chairman Paul Donovan, believes the industry needs to be cradled and that continued investment in infrastructure is paramount.

“To see some money rolling out of Federal Government in what is a tight fiscal position is very good,” says Donovan.

“It’s never enough, but the important thing is how it’s spent. For the first time in a long time I think the Tourism Australia board is managing to get outcomes, we’re pretty happy with the direction they’re taking.”

At a local level, Donovan commented that Gold Coast Tourism was on the front foot with a number of initiatives to be rolled out soon.

“The big thing about the coast is that we need to make sure that as a group we get the right strategy out there and we spend money in the area that’s going to generate tourism,” he says.

“I don’t manage the business, I manage the board and I have absolute faith in the tourism board and the tourism management, particularly making sure that the strategy is correct.

“Our challenge is to make sure that aircraft are full. It’s no good just chasing tails because that’s not going to win it. I remember when we had just six flights a day now we have 126 and it’s up to us to work with partners to make sure that we fill those flights, otherwise people won’t be investing on the Gold Coast.”

Donovan also cemented his commitment to champion the sector.

“From my point of view it will continue, as long as people can handle my honesty,” he says.

“Everything I do and say is about benefiting the Gold Coast. As tourism chairman I also acknowledge the important role that Brisbane Airport contributes.

“We are in a good space at the moment compared to a lot of other places. I stand here and I think where else can you experience this anywhere else in the world? I don’t care where you go or who you talk to, there’s nothing like the Gold Coast. We have it all, (but) it’s up to us to market it correctly in a way that makes people keep on coming.”

Gold Coast Tourism will roll out a $1 million rebranding strategy in October, the details of which will be announced closer to the date.

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