Port Douglas must be viewed as a valuable product

BUSINESS AND TOURISM

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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The Douglas Chamber of Commerce says Port Douglas is still a valuable product. Image: Supplied.
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The Douglas Chamber of Commerce has made an impassioned plea to portray Port Douglas as a valued and valuable product and that it should not be misrepresented in the media.

Reacting to the decision by Crystalbrook Collection boss, Ghassan Aboud, to place on hold the $250 million re-development of the Marina until the State Government can prove its ability to dramatically increase tourism numbers to the Far North, Chamber president Liz Ross said tourism is a product which must be treated appropriately.

“Our product is extremely special. Where else do you find two World Heritage sites: where the rainforest meets with the reef?

“We need to ensure that we keep moving forward. Our media reports need to define who we are; and not some misinterpreted version of what some people think or what is said in the media.

“We need to be far more mindful of the message we are sending,” she said.

Ms Ross said she is concerned that the proposed development at the Marina is not proceeding in the short term.

“I also believe that while the initial comments made in August that the ‘project is still very much in the works’, provided optimism, it was the final comments that indicated that there were other issues that were also impacting on the proposal.

“The final comments by Interim CEO Geoff York indicated that he said the company needs to take into consideration, when assessing best use and development of the marina in Port Douglas, the importance that ‘tourism and visitation numbers’ need to be factored in.

“This demonstrates concern for the viability of the project which has now been reiterated by comments by Mr Aboud: ‘There will not be construction until we are comfortable with continued market growth’.”

Ms Ross said business needs to come together and through divergent thinking, generate creative ideas by identifying possible solutions that will create momentum and increase opportunities by locals for locals.

“This is a time to move forward positively; not be negative or go with the yes, but ...

“It is time! Let’s develop ideas. Let us be open to ideas and let us not criticise anyone who has ideas and is willing to put them forward.

“As previously stated, tourism is a product. Products come and go. We have much to be proud of, let us now move to the next level. What can we do; how can we do it; who do we need to get on board?”

In terms of the proposed and much hoped-for Marina re-development, Mr Aboud made his feelings abundantly clear this week. Don’t expect anything anytime soon.

“The problem is with us. We’ve stopped the project (Marina re-development) now, frankly.

“I am waiting to see what the reaction is from the Government in Brisbane about supporting Cairns Airport.

“They need to support Cairns Airport and they need to bring airlines here. This is very important,” said Mr Aboud on Thursday when he opened the Bailey.

It has been reported, meanwhile, that Queensland State Government Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says her government is actively pushing for more direct flights in and out of Cairns to ensure projects like the Marina re-development proceed.

But, with fewer international flights; Cairns Airport among the most expensive for landing fees; Cathay Pacific ending their flights into Cairns; and domestic tourism down, her government has a lot to overcome to pave the way for the Marina re-development to get a kick-start.

A further indication the Cairns market is not where Mr Aboud would like it to be, is his decision to partially open his third hotel, the Flynn, in January next year.

Construction of the Flynn – the company’s third Cairns hotel after the Riley and Bailey – is expected to be completed early in the New Year and a decision has already been taken to only open part of the hotel until tourism numbers to Cairns increase.


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