Incredible omission revealed in government's GTH report

 

CHAIRMAN John Witheriff and fellow members of the Gold Coast Tourism Advisory Panel have done their city some service.

Their report into proposals for a global tourism hub (GTH) on the Gold Coast, released last week, was thorough and even-handed.

It presented fairly and accurately the arguments for and against. It made no effort to gloss over the many challenges facing any such development.

The views of the Gold Coast community were canvassed using industry-leading standards.

One suspects that, viewed from Brisbane, the panel did its job rather too well.

The report reveals that support for a so-called global tourism hub on the Gold Coast is shaky at best.

And that's despite the following lengthy description of the proposal being provided to focus groups.

The ‘Global Tourism Hub’ description detailed in the Tourism Advisory Panel’s Report.
The ‘Global Tourism Hub’ description detailed in the Tourism Advisory Panel’s Report.

It's long but worth reading, not for what it includes, but what it leaves out.

"The Government describes a global tourism hub as an integrated resort featuring iconic structures, world-class entertainment and dining experiences and better public spaces for local residents. Global tourism hubs are part of the Queensland Government's plan to boost tourism, strengthen the economy and create more jobs.

A global tourism hub is a high quality, mixed use destination aimed at providing tourism, leisure and entertainment facilities that appeal to as broad a demographic as possible, including the international market. Such developments deliver broad direct and indirect benefits to the economy and community.

A global tourism hub could include:

• Iconic architecture with expansive high amenity public realm;

• Entertainment, recreational and cultural facilities;

• Five or six-star hotels;

• Arcades, pools, salons, gyms and other recreational facilities;

• Meeting and conference spaces;

• Tourist attractions including maritime museums and aquariums;

• Theatre and convention facilities;

• Cinemas;

• Boutique retail;

• Bars; and

• Celebrity chef restaurants."

The government continues to play down the gaming aspect of a “Global Tourism Hub”.
The government continues to play down the gaming aspect of a “Global Tourism Hub”.

It's hard not to spot the glaring omission. There are "celebrity restaurants", "aquariums" and "maritime museums". Even "salons" merit a mention. But the word "casino" is not one of the 157 in the Government's sales pitch.

As described, it would be very hard to oppose a global tourism hub. It would be like voting against Christmas. But it's not the full story.

It is important to stress that this is the Government's description, not the Tourism Advisory Panel's, and that the consultants who ran the focus groups say no-one present was in any doubt that gaming would be a part of a GTH.

"In relation to the material that was put to the focus groups (consultants) KPMG assure me that there was a gaming element included in the descriptions," Mr Witheriff told this column.

"I'm told gaming was absolutely canvassed in those forums."

The contents of the report bear this out.

Tourism Advisory Group chair John Witheriff.
Tourism Advisory Group chair John Witheriff.

The panel also conducted an online survey. The results of this survey showed 56 per cent of Gold Coast residents "strongly or somewhat support" the development of a GTH.

It is this 56 per cent figure that led most news reports about the panel's findings. But there's a catch. That figure was only arrived at after respondents had read the following description of a GTH:

"There has been some discussion of a new development on the Gold Coast - an integrated resort development. An integrated resort is an entertainment focused mega resort covering several hectares that includes five or six-star hotels, convention facilities, entertainment arenas, theme parks, luxury retail, signature food and beverage outlets, public attractions, extensive high-quality public open space and public recreation facilities. They often include a casino.

"Integrated resorts are now among the largest buildings in the world with innovative and creative architectural styles."

On this occasion the "c" word crept in, though it got second billing to excited talk of "theme parks" and "entertainment arenas", even though in reality the casino element is central to the whole process.

Interestingly, survey respondents were also asked their view before reading the above sales pitch. The number in favour then was just 28 per cent, which is probably about right.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has now ruled out using public land for a second casino – meaning Carey Park in Southport is no longer a potential site. Picture: Glenn Hampson.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has now ruled out using public land for a second casino – meaning Carey Park in Southport is no longer a potential site. Picture: Glenn Hampson.

As the Tourism Advisory Panel's report makes clear, support for the second casino project is likely to remain muted while there is no suitable location identified, the likely impact on surf clubs and RSLs is not seriously addressed and the government continues to insist on spinning the project as a "global tourism hub" (they suggest "integrated resort development" as an alternative).

What the report makes clear, above all else, is that Gold Coasters are no mugs.

Continuing to push sales pitches about the global tourism hub that greatly downplay or don't even mention the gaming element treats us as such. It's no wonder people are sceptical.

The locals responsible for and quoted in the Tourism Advisory Group's report are no mugs either. It is a fine piece of work.

And it has already yielded results, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday ruling out the use of public land for any second casino development.

The Tourism Advisory Panel's full report is available HERE. This column recommends you give it a read.



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