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Australia: Gold Coast looking to the Middle East

1/11/11  www.ttnworldwide.com

According to Gordon Price, Gold Coast Tourism director International, total visitation to the Gold Coast (both international and domestic) increased by 8.2 per cent in the first six months of 2011 (when compared to the first six months of 2010), while total international expenditure on the Gold Coast for the first six months of 2011 was $414 million. This was a decline of 22 per cent compared to the first six months of 2010 (when $553 million was spent).GOLD Coast continues to beckon visitors from the Middle East after recently concluding a very successful Ramadan-friendly marketing program in the state. In the first six months of 2011, the Gold Coast welcomed 5.2 million visitors. This included 3.3 million day-trippers, 1.5 million domestic overnight visitors and 337,000 international visitors.

Price speaks to TTN about how Gold Coast continues to remain the favourite among big-spending Arab visitors and their plans for the region.

What kind of visitor arrivals are you seeing from the Middle East?

The Middle East arrivals in Gold Coast have increased over the last 12 months (up 15 per cent to 15,000). Middle East spend, however, has declined (down 15 per cent to 68 million).

We anticipate Middle East arrivals to be reduced in 2011 due to the recent strength of the Australian Dollar, perceptions of our destination as flood affected and due to Ramadan falling within the key Middle East holiday period.

Since the first quarter, how much has business bounced back? What source markets remained resilient and what markets continue to show declining figures?

Given the major events which unfolded in our key overseas markets of New Zealand and Japan, it has been no surprise to see declines from these markets. Over the past five years, however, Gold Coast Tourism has diversified its source markets to build a more robust and sustainable industry. It was because of this earlier work that the impact of these disasters was not as significant as they would have been only a few years ago. The tourism board’s robust marketing efforts into China and a number of South East Asian markets has paid dividends this year through increases in visitor numbers.

With the increase in tourism funding by $3mn this year, what is on the agenda for the tourism board? What new marketing initiatives can we expect to see?

We are committed to undertaking comprehensive destination education initiatives which will continue through to the major 2012 holiday period. It is imperative for the industry to be fully aware of the Gold Coast proposition to ensure potential holiday makers know what is available within the destination. In terms of consumer engagement, an area that proved successful for us this last season in the Middle East has been the use of social network channels such as Facebook and Maktoob. This is an area that along with selected offline channels will make up a larger proportion of our marketing focus and activity into the 2012 season.

Australia’s Gold Coast has set about maintaining its preferred holiday destination status among the Middle East’s Muslim Arab community by introducing a number of initiatives to accommodate visitors during Ramadan which will continue to promote. A dedicated evening lounge facility is offered free of charge, three nights a week, in Surfers Paradise throughout the Holy Month allowing local and visiting Muslims to gather and meet following each day of traditional Ramadan fasting. Arabic-speaking locals man a tour information desk within the ‘Ramadan Lounge’, which is located in the second level suite of the Hotel Grand Chancellor. Here, a range of Iftar food and beverage offerings plus shisha pipes are available in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. The Ramadan Lounge initiative is all part of the destination’s strategy to welcome the international Muslim community. Numerous Gold Coast operators already offer Halal-certified product, theme parks provide designated prayer rooms and many hotels have the Koran and prayer mats readily available upon request.

The 2012 Gold Coast Muslim Visitors Guide will provide details of Muslim-friendly facilities and will be made available from Tourism Queensland’s GCC representative, Andrew Oldfield and in destination. It provides details on the following – useful contacts, attractions shopping, Halal outlets, restaurants and accommodation in both English and Arabic.

Is this a good time to promote the destination as a ‘value-for-money’ destination?

As a world leader in providing fun-filled, value-for-money family entertainment it has been imperative for the Gold Coast to continue to re-invent itself and ensure repeat visitation by holiday makers. For this reason there is always something new and exciting taking place somewhere throughout the region. Theme parks continually invest millions of dollars to create new attractions and there are billions of dollars being spent on the revitalisation of Surfers Paradise, plus the creation of a vital light rail project that will ensure greater ease of travel between the various precincts of the Gold Coast. Three all new five-star properties have recently been completed which will also enhance and add to the existing retail and dining experiences across the City. It really is an exciting time of change for the Gold Coast that will create greater appeal for domestic and international travellers well into the future.

What can guests visiting the Gold Coast look forward to in 2012?

The Gold Coast experience is full of excitement and diversity. In just a 40 minute radius there are 70 kms of the world’s best beaches, 500 cafes and restaurants, 100,000 hectares of world heritage listed rainforest, and more things to see and do than any other destination in the Southern Hemisphere. From pure, adrenalin-packed fun to natural indulgence, the contrasts of Queensland’s Gold Coast unite to deliver every holiday experience you could desire in one friendly place. Soaking up the attractive beach side culture, walking trails and exploring the amazing flora and fauna of the Gold Coast hinterland ensures an unforgettable experience. Coupled with an assortment of shopping and retail opportunities, the Gold Coast is a must do on any Middle Eastern holiday makers itinerary. www.VisitGoldCoast.com

Several new five-star resorts are now available for visitors, including the all-new Hilton Surfers Paradise Hotel offering superior standards of service and quality. The hotel recently completed a $20 million refurbishment offers new, upgraded guest rooms, function areas, lobby and restaurant.

Gold Coast City Council’s $25 million Surfers Paradise Foreshore Redevelopment has reconnected the heart of Surfers Paradise with the beach and created a safer, more accessible public space – with improved recreational opportunities for pedestrians and cyclists and Ardent Leisure was recently announced SkyPoint Climb, Australia’s highest external building walk, taking climbers on a guided journey reaching 270 m into the sky on top of the Q1 resort building will be opening this summer. Climbers will dress in a full body climb suit and harness before they step into the open air via SkyPoint Observation Deck on level 77.

What are your offerings for the trade in the Middle East?

Gold Coast Tourism is most accommodating of valued Middle Eastern travel agents and tour operators and is happy to assist with familiarisation and tactical promotion support as well as providing in market staff training where required.  Freely available upon request are Arabic language visitor guides and promotional collateral to optimise the selling capabilities of the travel trade. Gold Coast Tourism will ensure an intimate and welcoming stay for all guests, providing active and fun-filled activities to fill every day while on the Gold Coast. There is a definite ease in pre-booking Gold Coast theme parks and activities and GCT has the capabilities to orchestrate worthwhile educational famil and co-operative tactical marketing opportunities, plus assist with point of sale merchandising activities.

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