Urbis Think Tank
Bid to boost visitor numbers
July 9th 2012
LAST week, the State Government and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council signed a partnership agreement which promised to turn around the fortunes of the ailing tourism industry.
The signing of this landmark agreement at the inaugural DestinationQ Forum in Cairns signalled a long-awaited move towards addressing the region’s depleted tourist numbers.
The 12-month plan offers an opportunity for Queensland to regain its role as Australia’s No.1 tourism destination. With its aim to double visitor spending to $30 billion by 2020, it is important the plan is implemented with the same intent with which it was created.
Tourism is a key pillar of the Queensland economy. However, it long has been hindered by a lack of an appropriate planning framework for new tourism development and complex approval processes.
And, until last week, there was no coherent plan aligning the State’s strategy to prioritise the needs of the tourism industry and increase its capacity. However, this issue was high on the agenda of Australia’s peak tourist industry body, the Tourism and Transport Forum, and a clear set of actions were outlined, including a commitment to streamline appropriate tourism project approval processes.
Yet this is no quick fix. Careful consideration will need to be given to incentives and related land usage to support the viability of new tourism developments. It is encouraging to see that Brisbane City Council’s 2012-2013 Budget continues incentives for new hotel development through a moratorium on infrastructure charges. Hotel development is also in the land-use mix for the State Government Administrative Precinct and the old Supreme Court site in Brisbane.
Elsewhere, residential and commercial-related land usage may be needed to make tourism projects more viable in locations where they are not currently permitted, on the basis they are necessary to support the project.
While the designation of “Urban Footprints” (a tool for managing growth outside urban areas) through the State’s regional plans have helped to contain development and limit urban sprawl, they have reduced the opportunities for new tourism development which, by its very nature, often calls for locations away from existing urban areas.
Only fairly modest tourism developments can be considered outside the urban footprints with little or no supporting uses permitted.
While today we may develop differently, iconic Queensland tourist destinations such as Hamilton Island, Sanctuary Cove and the Sheraton Mirage at Port Douglas would not have been established in their current form if today’s planning restrictions had applied.
Many of the “outside the loop” developments that helped put Queensland on the map as a global tourism destination in the 1980s and 1990s would have fallen at the first planning hurdle.
Many of the iconic destinations and resort cities we have relied on to support the industry now require rejuvenation.
In the 1980s and 1990s the growth in tourism development was driven by Japan.
In this “Asian Century” it is the expanding markets of China, Malaysia, Singapore and India that offer unparalleled opportunities.
We need to be ready to respond to the changing needs of the tourism market with new infrastructure and “investment-ready” projects – whether it be a five-star hotel in the Brisbane CBD or a new world-class resort in Cairns – to revitalise Destination Queensland.
Ben Weaver is associate director at independent property consultants, Urbis which worked with the Tourism and Transport Forum to complete the new National Tourism Planning Guide.