Golden op­por­tu­nity is no mi­rage

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FEEDBACK -

OPPORTUNOPPORTUNITIES oc­ca­sion­ally come along that cre­ate a real ’light-bulb’ mo­ment and a re­cent last minute of­fer to take the place of the Shadow Tourism Min­is­ter at Hamil­ton Is­land’s Qualia re­sort was cer­tainly one.

Although it was easy to be im­pressed by the ser­vice, the food, the stun­ning fa­cil­i­ties and set­ting, it was the re­mark­able par­al­lels be­tween Hamil­ton Is­land and Port Dou­glas that re­ally struck home.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it took de­vel­op­ers Christopher Skase and Keith Wil­liams - both men with vi­sion - to iden­tify the po­ten­tial of the desti­na­tions, and to take a punt on them.the re­sult? Two iconic re­sorts - the Sher­a­ton Mi­rage in Port Dou­glas and Hamil­ton Is­land - built at huge ex­pense, but which served as a cat­a­lyst to at­tract tourism and pro­mote fur­ther de­vel­op­ment.

Dur­ing their hey­day in the ’80s and ’90s they hosted celebri­ties and in­ter­na­tional fig­ures, drawn to the desti­na­tions’ abil­ity to bal­ance lux­ury fa­cil­i­ties with a laid­back vil­lage at­mos­phere.

But de­spite their pre­vi­ous suc­cesses, the tourism down­turn hit both hard - a se­ries of new own­ers brought dif­fer­ent ideas but no real vi­sion, while we atched the room stan­dards drop and in­fra­struc­ture de­cline over the next decade.

Then in 2003 along came wealthy agri­cul­tur­al­ist and wine­maker Bob Oat­ley, of sail­ing’s ’Wild Oats’ fame, who bought Hamil­ton Is­land at a bar­gain price with an ex­cep­tional in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment pro­gram in mind.bob firmly be­lieved that de­spite the bur­geon­ing bud­get travel mar­ket, there was a niche for a high-end lux­ury re­sort - and came up with the con­cept of the six-star Qualia.

Since the open­ing of Qualia, Hamil­ton Is­land has seen the start of a new pe­riod of pros­per­ity as the trickle-down ef­fects ben­e­fit lo­cal busi­ness and tourism per­a­tors, and the at­mos­phere was ab­so­lutely boom­ing.

In Port Dou­glas, the Sher­a­ton Mi­rage was also picked up at a bar­gain price last year by Melbourne theatre mag­nate David Mar­riner.

Although Bob Oat­ley had to start from scratch in build­ing the six-star Qualia, David is for­tu­nate to have the ex­ist­ing Sher­a­ton - and its rep­u­ta­tion - as a start­ing point.

While David recog­nises the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two desti­na­tions, he told me this week that Hamil­ton Is­land still doesn’t have the “so­phis­ti­ca­tion, charm and ro­mance” of Port Dou­glas.

What he will bring to the ta­ble is the op­por­tu­nity not only to re­fur­bish, but also to cre­ate a new in­dus­try with the ex­po­si­tion cen­tre and an am­phithe­atre, pro­vid­ing us with a snap­shot of the Melbourne theatre cul­ture and giv­ing vis­i­tors an­other rea­son to travel to Port Dou­glas.

At the Fed­eral level, meet­ings with Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Si­mon Crean and his ad­vi­sors were con­struc­tive but it was made clear that the back­ing first needed to be there at a State level.

Now though, with the change of gov­ern­ment, an op­por­tu­nity ex­ists that can’t be ig­nored - Port Dou­glas has been mark­ing time for a long time, and this is the cat­a­lyst for change. If we can get coun­cil to com­mit to the la­goon and give a tick to the waterfront up­grade then here is our tri­fecta - the re­cov­ery will start.

I’ll be work­ing very closely with the newly elected State Mem­bers, Fed­eral Op­po­si­tion Leader and the Premier to con­vert rhetoric into ac­tion - no more fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.