Tourism back on track

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Angelique Pat­ter­son

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.

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