Sunshine Coast opens arms to hotel developers

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson at Caloundra. Picture: Glenn Hunt.

The Sunshine Coast Council is calling on the private sector to build a host of hotels in the region north of Brisbane, in a bid to deal with increasing tourist arrivals.

Independent Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson, who is unashamedly pro-development, called on developers to hit the Sunshine Coast with their proposals for more accommodation. He says the move was needed given the local airport was about to be extended to accommodate international carriers.

“We are interested in interstate, intra-state and international developers. The impetus will be the internationalisation of our airport in 2020, which is opening up a lot of opportunities for new investments in hotels,” Jamieson says. “We have a number of sites earmarked. We are a very pro-development council; tourism is an important industry.”

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Between six and 10 new hotels are needed by 2024 to accommodate the growth in tourists in the region, which is hitting about 10 million a year. Meeting the hotel demand requires a combination of new properties and refurbishment of existing accommodation.

The Sunshine Coast Council says there is a lack of five-star hotel accommodation in the region. The best hotel, according to Jamieson, is the Novotel Twin Waters that was purchased last month for about $100 million by hotel investor the Shakespeare Property Group.

Jamieson says he wants to switch from serviced apartments, which are prevalent on the Sunshine Coast, to hotel development in a bid to appeal more broadly to international tourists.

“If we don’t have the right product for them when they arrive then chances are they will be disappointed with their experience,” he says.

“There will be a portion of domestic travellers seeking a more high-end experience.”

The Sunshine Coast Council is building a greenfields city centre in Maroochydore, which includes the site for a 250-room hotel for the private sector to develop. The site could also accommodate 100 residential apartments and 15,000sqm of retail.

A five-star Westin Hotel has been approved at Yaroomba near Coolum. The council is also poised to approve a six-star hotel at Buderim, while a five-star hotel in Mooloolaba is being developed by a private Queensland company. Operators are yet to be announced.

Jamieson says that once the Sunshine Coast airport runway was extended to allow for international flights the focus would be on attracting Asian tourists from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

“We offer something we think is special — a magnificent coastline — and we have a beautiful hinterland on the Glass House Mountains,” he says. He concedes overbuilding can be a big risk, but says the local economy is on the rise and unemployment is down to 5% from 11% in 2011. Jamieson says hotel occupancies on the Sunshine Coast were always high, while the airport received about 1.33 million passengers in the past 12 months, up 11 per cent on the previous year.

“This is about trying to understand what the impact of the international flights will be,” he says.

This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.