Tangalooma Island Resort director David James says bureaucratic processes remain an issue for small operators seeking to expand their businesses.
Tangalooma Island Resort director David James says bureaucratic processes remain an issue for small operators seeking to expand their businesses.

Qld tourism boom worth billions

Southeast Queensland's tourism sector is in a purple patch with rising visitor numbers from Asia and big projects such as Queen's Wharf and Brisbane Cruise Terminal underway.

But according to industry leaders at an exclusive lunch organised by Queensland Business Monthly and BDO, we need to get smarter in key areas including training and marketing.

Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Kate Jones says Queensland tourism is now worth $17 billion after growing about $2 billion in the last two years.

"There is a new level of sophistication in the sector with a lot more opportunities," says Jones. "We are growing at a faster rate than the southern states."

Tangalooma Island Resort director David James says bureaucratic processes remain an issue for small operators seeking to expand their businesses.

James says the State Government is good at managing the approval processes for large projects, such as the proposed Brisbane Cruise Terminal, but not so good at helping small mum and dad businesses.

"Tourism is finally getting recognised as an industry but once we get to the bureaucratic level that is where we have the problems," James says.

TRAINING REGIMEN

James says the growing professionalism of tourism meant training had not kept pace with changes in the industry. "It has been considered a transient sector so finding staff can be challenging," he says.

"We have to push it as a career. I started at Tangalooma as a dive instructor but am still here 30 years later."

The Star Entertainment Group Queensland managing director Geoff Hogg says a lot of people go into tourism in a services role before moving up the ranks.

Hogg, who is helping to roll out the Queen's Wharf resort project in Brisbane's CBD, is working with TAFE Queensland to train frontline staff.

"I started as a gaming attendant and a lot of us have got into the industry through these service roles," Hogg says."We have to start talking about it as a career."

Department of Innovation, Tourism Industry Development and the Commonwealth Games director-general Damien Walker says building up staff numbers in the tourism industry can be a double-edged sword.

"We need more people to get into the tourism business, but we need the best and brightest," Walker says.

"You go to places like Vietnam or Thailand and the service there is impeccable. They are our competition."

Tourism industry experts Renai Grace, John Kotzas and Tracey Vieira. Photo: Mark Cranitch.
Tourism industry experts Renai Grace, John Kotzas and Tracey Vieira. Photo: Mark Cranitch.

EXPANDING FOOTPRINT

Sirromet Wines general manager Rod Hill says the growth of tourism in Queensland meant a wider range of businesses had the opportunity to enter the sector.

Sirromet now gets a large part of its revenue from overseas tourists and other visitors.

"Other industries need to realise that they can be in tourism too," he says.

"I went to Sirromet to run a wine business, but now I am running a tourism business. You can be a farmer in Toowoomba supplying produce to resorts and be in tourism."

Australian Tourist Park Management chief executive Paul Davies says his company, which operates about 20 parks around the country, is on a big drive to expand its footprint and wants to change the industry's somewhat "daggy" image.

"We are about to acquire more motor parks and want to drive more international business," Davies says.

Screen Queensland chief executive Tracey Vieira says there is a growing link between television series and movies shot in a particular region and tourism.

"New Zealand wasn't always Middle Earth," says Vieira.

"It was just smart marketing. With films like Dora the Explorer now being filmed in Queensland there are growing tourism opportunities. It is good exposure for the region. Five years ago we would not have been considered, but now we are really becoming known internationally."

QBM/BDO exclusive Tourism sector lunch attendees: (standing) David James, Elisa D'Alessio, Cameron Henry and (seated) Paul Davies, Geoff Hogg. Photo:Mark Cranitch.
QBM/BDO exclusive Tourism sector lunch attendees: (standing) David James, Elisa D'Alessio, Cameron Henry and (seated) Paul Davies, Geoff Hogg. Photo:Mark Cranitch.

IMPROVED CONNECTIONS

Zipline Australia director Mike Thompson says small operators needed to have more platforms to promote their businesses in the Brisbane market.

Thompson's company plans a treetop zipline experience from the top of Mt Coot-tha and attracting tour groups will be vital to its success.

"You go to places like Cairns or Queenstown in New Zealand and there are plenty of places where you can buy tour tickets," Thompson says.

"In Brisbane, this does not exist at the moment. They say Brisbane is missing out on $11 million of unspent tourism revenue a day. The challenge is to build these platforms."

Tourism director-general Damien Walker says there is a need for greater connectivity between tourism attractions along the Brisbane River and in Moreton Bay.

"We have South Bank and the islands and we are getting Queen's Wharf," Walker says. "The trick is to get connectivity along the river and we are working on that."

BDO partner Cameron Henry says continued investment in infrastructure that supports tourism will help the sector.

"For example, the planned new runway at Brisbane airport will allow more direct flights from growing tourism markets in China and India," Henry says.

DIGITAL DISRUPTION

Tangalooma's David James says big changes in the digital space, including the rise of online travel agents, are throwing up challenges.

He says he knows of one major hotel chain missing out on millions of dollars of revenue because people are booking through online travel agents rather than direct with the hotel.

"These online agents might take a commission of 15-25 per cent," he says. Chinese tourists were some of the biggest users of online platforms, which take a cut of bookings.

"These platforms geolocate the person when they arrive in Brisbane and they are offered bookings for local tours," James says.

"Ninety nine per cent of our Chinese clients don't take a wallet when they go out to dinner. They take their phone and pay through the app."