Urbis Think Tank
Queensland Government takes major step towards improving tourism development opportunities
Content provided by Ben Weaver
Over the last few years, Australia’s tourism industry has been impacted by challenging global economic conditions and the high Australian dollar. However, following discussions at its Destination Q Forum at the end of June, the new Queensland Government has recognised that complex planning approval processes have been an added barrier to growth in the industry and that streamlined processes are now required for tourism projects that are appropriate for their context and environment
The complexities of planning approval processes are hindering tourism investment
Recent work by Urbis for the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) investigated the regulatory barriers to the supply-side of tourism and highlighted the need for planning systems to be more flexible and responsive. In developing the National Tourism Planning Guide, Urbis identified that a key concern was navigating the complexities between Australia’s different planning systems.
In Queensland, the developments that once helped to position the Sunshine State as Australia’s number one tourism destination, such as Sanctuary Cove, Hamilton Island and the Sheraton Mirage at Port Douglas took time, considerable commercial risk and capital to enable them to come forward. Whilst today we may develop in a different form, the establishment of many of these iconic destinations would not be able to be instigated in their current form if today’s planning restrictions had applied.
Tourism is a critical part of the Queensland economy, employing directly and indirectly about 10% of the workforce. In the 80s and 90s 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.
However, planning for the new tourism infrastructure to support its role in the economy has been underplayed, with little understanding given to its particular land use requirements. If Queensland is to capture a greater share of the rising Asian market, the State must plan for and facilitate the tourism infrastructure required to attract the huge opportunities in a measured and sustainable manner.
Landmark agreement provides exciting catalyst for change
The road to achieve these changes involves the alignment of planning legislation, approval processes and plan-making to create a sustainable and consistent platform for investment.
At the end of June, the State Government and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council signed a landmark partnership agreement at the inaugural Destination Q Forum in Cairns which promises to turn around the fortunes of our ailing tourism industry. With a target set of doubling visitor spending to $30 billion by 2020, it’s important that the plan is implemented with the same intent with which it was created.
New development in tourism in required to satisfy growing demand
In light of the recent strong results in domestic tourism, these planning issues are crucial and urgent. Domestic visitor nights increased by12% in the first quarter, and domestic spend was up 15%.
To accommodate increasing domestic and international demand, Queensland, and Australia need to plan effectively for investment in its tourism infrastructure through new ‘investment-ready’ projects, and the rejuvenation of our iconic resort cities, balancing social, environmental and economic considerations.
We at Urbis are excited by the outcomes of the Destination Q Forum and hope that the tourism industry, State and Local Governments can work together to return Queensland to its rightful position as Australia’s number one tourism destination. A strong Queensland tourism industry is good for Australia’s economy and position on the global stage.