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Thu 1 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Oz to target HNW visitors

Australia’s Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey, speaks exclusively to ATN about her mission to attract high-spend tourists from the GCC

The need for the Australian tourism industry to set its sights on attracting High Net Worth (HNW) customers has been emphasised by the country’s Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey.

“The industry needs to be much more aware of the value of the high end of the market, rather than the sheer volume. That means it can’t simply focus on numbers of people [arriving into Australia], but how much those people are spending and how long they stay in the country,” she said.

“That is starting to happen. We finally have Australian journalists starting to write about the importance of high-yield visitors, so finally we are getting this message across.”

She pinpointed the Middle East as a key growth market, particularly for HNW arrivals.

Minister Bailey explained how by speaking at industry forums and in Parliament, she was gradually introducing the concept of HNW travellers and how they should be encouraged to visit Australia.

“Because of the nature of the tourism industry, where many of the operators are small businesses, it is not an easy industry to get speaking with one voice and so the Minister often tends to be the advocate for the industry as well as the Minister, which is an unusual situation,” she explained.

“And the Government is becoming very serious about the matter.”

Bailey’s comments also responded to an article in last month’s ATN in which Tony Williams, vice president – resorts & projects at Emirates claimed Australia had failed to attract high-spend customers due to the lack of properties that appeal to this market.

He also made the bold claim that Emirates Hotels & Resorts’ forthcoming Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa property, which will be located on a 3600-acre World Heritage site in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, would be “without doubt”, the most luxurious property in Australia when it opened its doors next year.

“I don’t disagree with Tony Williams in that we need more investment in the luxury end of the market, but there are a number of absolutely superb luxury properties where people can stay now,” she argued.

Bailey cited El Questro in the Kimberleys; Hayman Island and Voyages Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef; the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast; Longitude 131° in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National overlooking Uluru (Ayers Rock); and Chateau Yering Historic House Hotel in the Yarra Valley, as some of the most sought after exclusive properties in Australia.

“[But] I’m sure Wolgan Valley will be absolutely superb, and if it’s anything like Al Maha, it will definitely be at the very top end,” she said.

She said the Australian Government has set aside “unprecedented levels of funding” for the tourism industry.

“I commissioned some research, entitled the National Tourism Investment Strategy, and in that we identified that AU $86 billion (US $67 billion) was required for investment in tourism over the next 10 years,” she added.

Bailey was also quick to respond to Williams’ complaint that bureaucratic barriers at all levels of Government – Federal, State and Local Council – had significantly delayed the planning permission process for Wolgan Valley: “Well, I’m a Federal and we will do everything that we can to facilitate investment,” she said.

One of the problems, she explained, was that the State Government (Labour) of NSW where Wolgan Valley will be built had enforced a “complex development process”.

However, at Federal level (Liberal), her department had developed a software programme known as the business cost calculator, that she claimed would “halve the time and the cost of a development application”.

“I am now getting the states to implement this programme and we are very confident it will reduce a lot of the difficulties companies have with the red tape issue,” she said.

The sales pitch

Australian luxury:

Some of Australia’s top-end luxury properties currently in operation include:


Chateau Yering:

Chateau Yering Historic House Hotel is a listed Victorian Mansion located on 250 acres of land in the scenic Yarra Valley, the wine-growing region, which is a short drive from Melbourne. The luxury period accommodation contains 32 suites and the award-winning Eleonore’s restaurant.


El Questro Homestead Wilderness Park:

a working cattle station offering visitors a “truly Australian holiday experience”. The homestead is an “exclusive retreat cantilevered over the Chamberlain River”, set against the backdrop of the rugged Kimberley ranges
www.elquestrohomestead.com.au

.


Hayman:

located on Hayman Island in the Whitsundays, surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef, the Hayman resort boasts 234 rooms, suites, penthouses and a villa, all featuring private terraces or balconies and Spa Chakra. This romantic getaway is recommended for honeymooners. Visit
www.hayman.com.au/resort

.


Longitude 131°:

described as “luxurious, eco-sensitive and romantic”, this five-star property is set in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and offers private views of the sun rising and setting over Uluru (Ayers Rock). Visit
www.longitude131.com.au

.


Palazzo Versace:

the world’s first Versace Hotel, located on the Gold Coast in Queensland, features 205 rooms, 72 condominiums, three award-winning restaurants, private marina, a Per Aquum spa and of course, a Versace boutique. Visit
www.palazzoversace.com

.


Voyages Lizard Island:

Australia’s northernmost resort, located on the Great Barrier Reef, and surrounded by 24 “powdery white beaches”. Offers unrivalled diving and snorkelling prospects. Visit
www.lizardisland.com.au

.

Forthcoming properties:

Minister Bailey told ATN there were several luxury property proposals for Australia in the pipeline, but would not reveal any details, however, Emirates Hotels & Resorts is currently building the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa on a 3600-acre World Heritage site in the Blue Mountains, to the west of Sydney.

"The industry needs to be much more aware of the value of the high end of the market, rather than the sheer volume."

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