May 26 2010
The Gold Coast will make a major play for the lucrative Middle Eastern tourist dollar just as the rest of Australia drops the ball by focusing its efforts on the Asian market.
Local tourism operators will hold special Ramadan events this winter travel season to lure tourists from the six key Gulf countries — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
Gold Coast Tourism international director Gordon Price said a ‘Ramadan lounge’ would be set up at the Courtyard Mariott, providing free food to Arab Muslims needing to break their sun-up to sun-down fast during the holy month starting in August.
The move to provide a culturally and religiously-sensitive option is hoped to encourage Muslim tourists to continue to travel during the 30-day holy month.
It comes as the Gold Coast amps up its campaign to lure the big-spending Gulf travellers while the rest of Australia pulls out of the Middle East.
Tourism Queensland quickly moved to take over Tourism Australia’s Dubai office when it pulled out mid-last year and the Gold Coast is capitalising on the access.
In the year ending March 2010, 21,000 Middle East tourists arrived in Queensland with about 98 per cent spending some time on the Gold Coast.
Mr Price said while the numbers were not huge and ranked about seventh in the Gold Coast’s main source markets, they spent about $73 million — making them the third highest-spending visitors.
“They are incredibly highly lucrative,” said Mr Price.
“They stay three or four weeks, which we don’t get from others, and they are active tourists — they dine out, go to the theme parks, go shopping and go to the Hinterland.”
Toufic Lawand, from Gold Coast-based Lawand Tourism, specialises in Gulf region tourism and said the city had the chance to capitalise on a largely untapped market.
He said Saudi Arabia had the most potential with a population of 20 million — at least five to six million of which were possible travellers.
“We had between 13,000 to 20,000 tourists to the Gold Coast and we could easily double that,” he said.
“The Gold Coast has the ingredients they want — cooler weather and abundance of tourist attractions.”
“The beauty of Australia is they can go south and ski in Victoria, visit the theme parks of the Gold Coast and then head up to the tropics — one visa, one trip.”