Tourism back on track
THERE is a wave of investment splashing into the region, as resorts and accommodation houses throughout the various markets upgrade, refurbish, renovate and refresh.
It is understood the Port Douglas Sheraton Mirage upgrade is going to be worth $200 million, and even if it is less it will still be the largest amount invested into an existing resort - which is appropriate considering the size of the Sheraton.
But this is not the only investment, with owners of resorts and accommodation houses located across Port Douglas, Mossman and the Daintree already investing money, effort and creativity into refurbishing, renovating and refreshing their properties. It’s an exciting time for Douglas. ‘‘The Sheraton Mirage will be the icing on the cake for Port Douglas as a destination, to have the golf course back in good order and a major refurbishment of the hotel,’’ said leading Port Douglas businessman John Morris.
‘‘There are few sites left for large hotel resort development, and I suspect over the next 12 months land could be sold for another major resort in Port Douglas, between QT and the Mirage Golf Course.
‘‘ All indications suggest this trend will continue into the years ahead if we carry on with refurbishments and new buildings. Port Douglas has a great future with a flow-on effect to the whole area. The region is continuing to improve well above last year and looking at the various developments happening, whether it’s refurbishments or rebuilding, it shows that Port Douglas is back on track.’’
My Yi Yu, the managing director of the Fullshare group which has taken full ownership of the Sheraton Mirage, said: ‘‘ We are extremely excited about what lies ahead. The overall plan is to upgrade the existing resort and golf course, restoring it to its former glory. This investment will bring revenue to a wide range of industries and restore the image of Port Doulas as being a luxury destination and a very special part of Australia.
‘‘ Works will hopefully begin around February next year and we are looking at a time frame of 18 months to two years,’’ Mr Yu said.
Rendezvous Reef Resort in Port Douglas has spent a total of around $11 million in the past five years, renovating their centre facility, villas and garden renovations.
G e n e r a l manager L u k e McDonald said Rendezvous is always developing upgrades with the body corporate to meet guest expectations, and they have noticed an improvement in occupancy as a result.
‘‘The global financial crisis really hurt Port Douglas and hurt us as a company and resort, but we’ve seen since 2008 a 30 per cent occupancy swing, year on year - with a 10 per cent swing this year,’’ he said. ‘‘We expected a 3.5 per cent swing, so the renovations has definitely benefited us quite significantly. And what the Sheraton is about to do will not only benefit themselves but it will help the region.
‘‘We often get the overflow from them, if it’s not from a conference or event it’s other items - their renovation will be a boost for the township.’’
Further north Daintree Eco Lodge owner Chris Morris, of Colonial Leisure Group, who also owns Orpheus Island, a fleet of helicopters and several other hotels including a brewery, plans to spend around $5 million reviving the exclusive cachet of the lodge.
‘‘The spa is world famous and we are doing a totally new spa right in the rainforest and we really specialise down south in food and hospitality values, so we are really updating the whole food experience,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m quite amazed that occupancy has been so high, sitting around 80 per cent, which is incredible considering people were staying away when it went into receivership. It has really surprised me and could be because it is involved in marketing with Orpheus Island. ‘‘Daintree is a hidden gem. I spent some time going through the bush and it’s absolutely spectacular but has no high level resorts up there.’’
Ramada Resort, owned by Wyndham Hotel Groups, recently finished and unveiled a $7.3 million refurbishment, cutting its num- ber of rooms by more than half, turning them into studios, onebedroom and two-bedroom apartments. The resort’s reception, heated pool and grounds were also revamped.
On the other end of the market, the new owners of Port Douglas Motels recently spent five months gutting every single room and completing a refurbishment.
‘‘It was a lot because we rebuilt every room,’’ owner/ operator Suzie Conti said. ‘‘We did the refurbishment because it was old and run down.
‘‘This is the entrance to the main street of Port Douglas and also the property next door was done up, and the two properties complement each other.
‘‘We’ve had really good feedback from the locals who have been very supportive and trade has been wonderful. We believe next year is going to be very good.’’
Ferntree Resort in Cape Tribulation has received hundreds of thousands worth of renovations, Silky Oaks underwent a $3 million upgrade and refurbishment last year and QT Resort was born through a $6.5 million upgrade, creating a boutique hotel which is original and quirky, a success with tourists and locals.
Demi View Motel, Mossman Motel in Mossman, Sands resort, Saltwater Apartments, the Mediterranean and Best Western in Port Douglas all underwent refurbishments, upgrades and renovations as well.