Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones has promised to give Star Entertainment Group first right of refusal on a planned multi-billion dollar Gold Coast Global Tourism Hub (GTH) in a bid to end a lengthy seven-year standoff over a possible second Gold Coast casino.
But she has warned Star must “put up or shut up” if it is to be granted the exclusivity deal it seeks following the release of a long-awaited report on Tuesday, which described a GTH as a necessary step forward for the future of the renowned Australian holiday strip.
Star Entertainment Group, which owns and operates The Star Gold Coast, has long opposed development of a second Gold Coast casino and last month pledged to invest AU$100 million into redevelopment of the ageing Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre provided the government scrapped its second casino plans. That’s on top of a previously announced AU$2 billion masterplan that would include a major expansion of The Star Gold Coast.
At a press conference on Thursday discussing the contents of the GTH report, Jones said she would first hear exactly what Star has to offer before making any final decision on which direction to take.
“The Star have been very clear if we were to enter an exclusive agreement then they would want an exclusive contract,” Jones said.
“We have the endorsement from the Gold Coast to move forward with a multi-billion dollar investment in tourism infrastructure and we will sit down with Star first out of respect for their significant investment in the community.
“Throughout this process, the incumbent company here, Star, have said they believe they are best placed to deliver an additional AU$2 billion of infrastructure which will be a game changer.
“We will enter negotiations with Star and they can put up or shut up about their development.
“We have decided we will approach Star to exclusively deal with them so they can provide detail of their offer. The government will examine this offer and make a decision.”
While the GTH report, compiled by the Gold Coast Tourism Advisory panel and led by John Witheriff, didn’t describe what future development should look like, it did state a clear need for some sort of GTH if the Gold Coast is to position itself as an international tourism destination.
“The case for a GTH which addresses the need to attract particularly international visitors to the Gold Coast is strong,” it said, pointing to a 17.1% decline in Chinese visitors to the Gold Coast in the 12 months ended 31 March 2019.
“Without development of this kind, the Gold Coast is likely to continue to lose tourism market share to its competitors. This is the Panel’s primary concern as there is limited evidence to suggest that currently proposed projects meet the need to grow international tourist visitation.”
Notably, the report did make reference to the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre’s inadequacies, stating, “With demand for convention and entertainment space increasing, and newer larger facilities accessible in other locations around the country, it is likely the Gold Coast will continue to lose market share, and the economic returns it brings, unless significant change is made.”