Tue, 26 Jun 2018, Glenn Millar
With its visitor economy thriving and more than $10 billion worth of major public and private investment underway and in the pipeline, the future of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast region has never looked brighter.
Years of planning by authorities and initiatives by go-ahead investors and business people are paying exciting dividends. Most agree, 2018 will be a landmark year that marks a period of generational change for a region emerging as a sophisticated economic, tourism and lifestyle hub.
The Sunshine Coast offers a dynamic business environment, accessibility to markets, major new infrastructure, a highly-skilled workforce, and an idyllic lifestyle. It’s a winning combination that is attracting immense national and international investment.
Massive region-building capital investment is underway:
- A new $430 million city centre is being established in Maroochydore on a 53ha greenfield site, with the first new CBD streets set to open and the first commercial buildings to come out of the ground in the second half of this year. This new pulsing heart of the Sunshine Coast, with integrated nightlife, event venues, al fresco dining, boulevard shopping, urban recreation, community facilities and water’s edge experiences will add significantly to the city’s premier destination status. Leading business hotel brands have already expressed their interest.
- The Sunshine Coast Airport is undergoing a $347million expansion to deliver Australia’s next international airport and massive benefits to the tourism industry and business community, opening up direct flights to more locations for travellers and exporters. The new international standard runway and terminal are expected to be operational by 2020. Independent assessments value the economic benefit of the upgrade at $4.1 billion in 20 years after it opens, with up to two million more passengers attracted by 2040.
- Actventure, a $450 million integrated active lifestyle and tourist theme park is set to be developed by Dubai-backed Sanad Capital. It will feature a water park, said to include the world’s largest interactive kids play structure, hotel, conference facilities, retail, action sports, and a surf wave pool. Site works are underway on the 24ha site on Steve Irwin Way.
- Iconic local attraction the Big Pineapple is undergoing a major overhaul, with adventure tourism, music events, a water park, brewery and winery being developed across the 169ha site at Woombye.
- Aussie World is expanding from six to 22ha, adding five new rides to become the Downunder Drive destination.
- Major shopping centres are investing heavily too. The region’s largest, Sunshine Plaza, is undergoing a $400 million expansion that involves an innovative mix of adventure entertainment and retail. Big Top Shopping Centre in the Ocean Street Precinct at Maroochydore is adding a mega-entertainment component incorporating a 10-lane bowling alley, 18-hole mini golf course, cocktail bar and ‘escape room’.
- Other major infrastructure projects include an $81 million expansion of the University of the Sunshine Coast (completed 2015), one of the largest health precincts in Australia being developed adjacent to a new $1.8 billion tertiary teaching hospital campus, and council is advancing the delivery of a major international submarine broadband cable by 2020 to position the Sunshine Coast as a leading ‘smart city’ region.
I could go on. My point is, this is an important time in the history of the Sunshine Coast, as the region goes from strength to strength as a major urban and economic centre. And, with so much of the investment either directly related to or supporting the tourism sector, it is a watershed moment for everyone who owns or is considering an accommodation business.
The region’s current population of 298,000 (ABS 2016 Census) is projected to grow to 500,000 by 2041. Major access initiatives are also in progress, including significant highway duplication and interchange work. Proposals for a fast rail connection to Brisbane, together with a light rail project linking the region’s main urban areas, are on the table.
The latest Tourism & Events Queensland Regional Snapshot shows, despite the impact of Cyclone Debbie in March 2017, overnight domestic visitation to the Sunshine Coast region grew another 2.6% to 3.4 million in the year ending September 2017. International visitation grew by 8.2%, outpacing Queensland’s overall growth rate of 3.0%.
A total of 3.725 million visitors spent $2.233 billion in the region during the period. This follows several previous periods of impressive growth in both the domestic and international markets.
In his recent ‘2017 State of our Region’ address, Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson highlighted some other important points:
- an average annual economic growth rate of 4.09% - a full percentage point higher than
- the nation’s;
- the unemployment rate at 4.9% - a full percentage point lower than for Queensland;
- the 50th anniversary of the naming of the Sunshine Coast was celebrated in style in 2017 with 98 events attracting 35,000 guests; and
- building approvals at their highest level in eight years, with council issuing $1.72 billion in approvals for FY17.
So, if ever there was a time to be part of the Sunshine Coast’s exciting growth, it’s now.
Visit Sunshine Coast CEO, Simon Latchford, says such an impressive list of achievements and pipeline of investment couldn’t have been a better 50th birthday present for the region.
“It is fair to say that never before in the history of the region’s tourism sector can we look forward with so much confidence,” he said.
"In 2018, visitor numbers from sport will continue to grow as a number of international teams will prepare for the Commonwealth Games on the Sunshine Coast.
“Our major priority now is to see more sustainable, high-quality accommodation and attractions developed to maintain the tourism momentum as we are constrained at times by not having enough suitable offerings.
“We will be working closely with our tourism operators to prepare and be ready to welcome more domestic and international visitors with the extension of the Sunshine Coast Airport to be completed by 2020.”