Big vision for tourism behind new inner city building
A NEW $2.5m backpacker hostel is set to change the face of international tourism in Bundaberg.
Tomato Backpackers owner James Lee said he believed the new building opposite Hinkler Central would encourage more people to visit Bundaberg and spend money in the city.
"I will approach local tourism bodies to see how we can promote the region and see how we can inject tourism dollars back into it," he said.
"Many people probably think this one is a working hostel but my main concern is trying to work with overseas tourism bodies to promote the Bundaberg region's attractions such as Bundaberg Rum, Bargara, Mon Repos and the Hinkler Hall of Aviation.
"Bundaberg has a great potential to grow, we just need to tap the possibilities."
The new building will incorporate a cafe restaurant serving coffee and Asian style cuisine.
It will be open to hostel residents and locals.
Mr Lee said traditionally, backpackers had saved money by working in Bundaberg and then moved on to bigger cities.
"Many international visitors save the money here and then go to metropolitan areas to spend their money. However, my plan is to have as many of those dollars spent in our region as possible," he said.
Mr Lee said there was enough reason for overseas visitors to work and spend money by enjoying their time in the region.
"We've got good restaurants, good cafes and shopping centres," he said.
"We want to contribute to the local economy.
"We need to work on a strategy in conjunction with tourism bodies and council to raise the profile of our wonderful city Bundaberg."
Mr Lee said he had used local engineers and builders in the construction of the new building.
Christensen Industries construction project manager Tony Giovannoni said the development had been a local affair.
"All the people that he chose were all locals which was good and basically all people we used were locals," he said.
"There would have been close to 100 people working on the job and throughout the process in various different trades from electrical to plumbing, plastering and painting and the windows from G.James."
Mr Giovannoni said the 130-bed building had a firm focus on safety.
"We lifted the building up one metre above the last flood level," he said.
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said he applauded the new building.
"It brings a lot of confidence to the economic future for the region and it's a great credit to James and the family trust in the region," he saud.
"It's really supporting that paddock to plate theory as well being able to provide fantastic accommodation as well as being a great way to welcome international visitors and have a top class facility that people will be able to talk about around the rest of the world.
"For him making the financial commitment he obviously sees the great worth that we have in the region."
Mr Dempsey said there was no other facility like it in town.
"It ticks all the things - economy, tourism, supporting local jobs and it's a facility we can all be proud of so I ask the rest of the community when the coffee shop is open and the first drinks are being pored to come and support it," he said.
"People can come, have a great experience and stay here in quality accommodation."
"It's great to see James making a commitment."
Mr Lee opened the original Tomato Backpackers building at North Bundaberg in 2012 after moving to Bundaberg from South Korea.
He started life in Bundaberg as a backpacker on a tomato farm and then decided there was enough potential in the city to start a backpacker hostel of his own.
Since then, Mr Lee and his wife Candice have had two children, with their third expected on Wednesday.
"I have lived in Bundaberg for 11 years and I believe Bundaberg has come a long way so we've got lots of international visitors," he said.
"We have to encourage international visitors to spend money in the region."
Mr Lee said the Maryborough St project had taken six months to build and would be up and running in about two weeks, with the cafe opening later.