A record international arrivals figure (301,000 – up 3.4% for 2017) in the latest International Visitor Survey highlights the strength of Sunshine Coast’s tourism, but a destination must always look forward if it is to maintain its position in a cut-throat market.
What is particularly exciting for our region is the concerted effort by governments at all levels to upgrade our transport infrastructure because ease of access to a destination is a crucial factor in driving additional business.
In the last few weeks we have been introduced to two innovative concepts that might still be just in the planning stage, but both offer radically different ways of moving people from Brisbane to and through the Sunshine Coast.
A fast train project is being assessed by the Federal Government with a proposed 40-minute journey between Brisbane and Maroochydore. At the moment, the North Coast Connect project is just at the feasibility stage, but as our population grows and Maroochydore transforms into a new city precinct, a fast train could offer enormous potential for Sunshine Coast residents and businesses.
It could have particular benefits for day visitors from Brisbane, conference delegates and business travellers, and would certainly encourage development of more tourism accommodation in locations like Maroochydore.
A more ‘niche’ tourism transport opportunity would be the development of a fast ferry route from Brisbane that would take in the Sunshine Coast and extend to Fraser Island, a popular touring route for international travellers that we help market under our ‘Australia’s Nature Coast’ agreement.
But probably – from an international perspective – our greatest potential tourism infrastructure initiative will be the redevelopment of the Sunshine Coast Airport. As Mayor Mark Jamieson said recently on the announcement of the successful tender for the $225 million project, the new airport will give us access to more Australian, Pacific and Asian source markets, which in turn will spur more economic development and jobs across the region.
Diversity of access is key to our future, and while roads will always be our principal artery, it is encouraging for Sunshine Coast tourism businesses that all other transport options are being considered so seriously.
Simon Latchford is the CEO of Visit Sunshine Coast.