Bruce Rhoades

Market ripe for boom in Gladstone tourism

AS THE Gladstone region struggles to pull itself out of the hole dug by the end of the construction boom, Deloitte Access Economics' latest Queensland business report has found one area that's ripe for the picking.

With a low Aussie dollar, which is expected to stay below 70 cents over the next five years, the report predicts tourism will pick up the slack and become a boom for the local economy.

International tourist arrivals across Queensland should grow by 5.7% per year and with changes to the Australia-China Air Services agreement, Queensland Deloitte Access partner Mark Ingham said we should see an increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to our shores.

"They're after unique areas and currently in places like 1770 tourists are primarily domestic, which means you've got a new market that hasn't been targeted yet," Mr Ingham said.

"The Chinese market is quite different because typically they don't travel in groups and are all about experience type tourism."

But the picture isn't entirely peachy.

Bruce Rhoades, who runs the island adventure tourism business 1770 Castaways, said changes to the "backpacker tax" slated for July this year will "shoot us in the foot".

As of July overseas workers will see the rate at which they're taxed jacked up from 19 cents on the dollar to 32.5 cents and to add insult to injury they will no longer be covered by the tax free threshold ($18,200).

"It won't be worth it for backpackers to come here which means our horticulture and small farm type businesses won't be able to get workers because they'll just go to New Zealand and Asia," Mr Rhoades said.

"If you're a backpacker it's just not going to be worth it to come here and work because once you take out food, accommodation and tax there won't be anything left."

Mr Rhoades said for the year his business had seen a 30% to 40% drop in the number of backpackers booking adventure holidays with him.

He said this worked out to be a loss of $350,000.

But with more adventure seeking Chinese tourists on their way, hopefully this will mean any negatives from the backpacker tax will be offset by this new and cashed-up tourist market.

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