THE Gold Coast might be trying to reinvent itself but it will always remain a tourism town at heart, says business leader Peter Yared.
The Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce (GCCCC) president, in a broad view of where the city should be headed in 2015, has backed tougher bikie laws for cleaning up Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach, but he says the city needs to take the next step if it is to capitalise on a resurgence in tourism.
"Tourism is the biggest employer on the Gold Coast and drives most other sectors," says Yared.
"If tourism suffers, small business suffers. If tourism is booming, small business is booming, ultimately creating a thriving economy and better opportunities for Gold Coasters."
Leading into the 2015 Queensland election, Yared has identified tourism as a key priority and says the city has benefited from a resurgence in tourism over the past few years and the laws implemented to clean up the streets.
He says Queensland needs to continue to employ tough laws in order to monitor and keep a close eye on what happens after hours in party precincts.
"We need to keep it clean and under control so our reputation isn't tarnished and so it doesn't further hurt the tourism industry," says Yared.
"I know Labor is suggesting taking back the bikie policies but from our perspective they have done nothing but good things for the Gold Coast in terms of cleaning up the streets and getting our reputation back on track so we need to make sure that is controlled."
According to the Queensland LNP Government, 1706 criminal gang participants have been arrested on 4710 charges since the controversial bikie laws were introduced in October 2013.
In addition, the rate of reported robbery is down 27 per cent, extortion is down 35 per cent, unlawful entry is down 20 per cent and motor vehicle theft is down 19 per cent.
Yared says although this is great news, the tourism industry on the Gold Coast is not meeting its full potential and the city needs strong leaders, making strong decisions on initiatives that can have major economic benefits for the Gold Coast.
He says whether it is a green or red light, the Gold Coast needs some clarity around the potential development of the cruise ship terminal.
"At the moment we look ridiculous, we have major developers willing to invest big money into projects and we can't give them an answer," he says.
"The cruise ship terminal has the potential to make or break the Gold Coast - we need a project of that size to reignite the tourism industry.
"And it is not only the tourism industry, it's the jobs while it's getting built, it's the jobs once it is opened, and it's the legacy.
"We need certainty from the Government around whether or not plans will move ahead, if this doesn't happen then we are going to see the idea bubble away for years and nothing will come to fruition."
The extension of the light rail is also a hot topic with Yared and the GCCCC pushing for the development to be completed before the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Yared says the light rail has gone through two of the biggest and most highly populated suburbs of the Gold Coast - Surfers Paradise and Southport - meaning the worst part is over.
"The first stage of the light rail created bad stigma in regards to the impact it had on small business," says Yared.
"However looking to the second stage that will run up to Helensvale, it will not come close to affecting as many businesses because it is travelling through residential areas and bushland.
"Although, for the few businesses along the route, there does need to be better management, planning and compensation for business owners that will be directly affected by the construction phase of the initiative.
"If you were to have set up a compensation fund for the first stage including the suburbs of Southport and Surfers Paradise, it would never have been enough however we believe a compensation plan for the second stage would be viable."
Yared says now is the time to act and tourism needs to remain a key pillar in the Queensland economy to grow a sustainable and thriving Gold Coast.
"If we get the cableway that will employ people, if we get the light rail that will employ people, if we get the cruise ship terminal that will create major employment," he says.
"And the spin off from that is when they employ more people they will grow and it will have a flow on effect. We need tourism investment to fuel job creation."
Tourism is projected to be among the world's fastest growing industries with growth forecasts at four per cent per year between 2013 and 2033 more than doubling in size over the next two decades.
Figures released by The Queensland Tourism Industry Council show one in 10 Queenslanders work within the state's tourism industry which contributes more than $23 billion to the state's economy.
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