24 Jul

Queensland Betting on Asian Tourism with Brisbane Casino Project

Not all is as well as it may appear in Queensland these days. Families are out and about, workers are commuting, the birds are chirping in time with the cresting waves off Brisbane’s coast, but there’s a palpable sense of urgency in the air. The economy is slowly crumbling. And the government is betting all its chips that the new Queen’s Wharf casino project will save the day.

The value of the Australian Dollar has been tumbling downhill compared to USD, dropping again on Tuesday to US-73.51c, and currently sitting at US-72.69c at time of writing. Some experts have predicted the value to continue dropping rapidly, projecting it will plunge below US-60c. But it’s those same market conditions that government officials believe will help drive more tourism from Asia.

Last year, an estimated 918,000 travelers visited Australia from China alone, representing the nation’s largest tourism market. That’s an increase of 21.7% over the previous year, and one statistic Queensland officials would like to see continue its escalating trend.

After watching the Chinese spend a whopping $5.7 billion in the Land Down Under last year—a 19% increase from 2013—many are expecting the Queen’s Wharf casino project to help multiply that figure tremendously.

Queen's Wharf Brisbane Casino Proect

Brisbane Casino Resort Concept
courtesy Destination Brisbane Consortium

Matt Bekier is the Chief Executive Officer of Echo Entertainment, the company that ultimately won the bid to construct the enormous casino resort complex on Brisbane’s waterfront. For years, the Australian economy has relied on mining as its primary source of income, extracting everything from coal and natural gas to silver, gold and uranium, but Bekier believes that’s about to change.

“This is going to be the next mining boom,” Bekier said. “If we look in Asia in terms of the aspiration of where people want to go to, Australia stands out as No 1 in terms of aspiration and desire to go to. But we’re about number 14 of the places they actually go to,” he explained, noting “there’s a huge opportunity.”

Based in Brisbane already, Bekier said Echo will be temporarily moving its headquarters, along with 300 staff members, closer to the build site to oversee the resort project directly. The Queen’s Wharf waterfront project is immense, said to include a massive casino, 5 hotels, a trio of residential towers, 50 restaurants and bars, a cinema, grand ballroom and a new footbridge connecting to South Bank.

Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, echoed the sentiments of Bekier. Palaszczuk expects the new casino resort destination to drive millions of tourists to the region each year, adding that “The flow-on effects will be felt for decades to come.”

John O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Tourism Australia, also expressed a positive outlook for Australia’s future in tourism. He said the economic cycle that the Queen’s Wharf casino project will produce will be a driving force behind the success and sustainability of the region’s future.

“With international tourism to Australia continuing to grow to record levels,” said O’Sullivan, “continued investment in new product, including integrated resorts, as well as existing tourism product, is critical to ensure we are able to cater to the growing number of visitors.”

But as the value of the Australian Dollar continues to decline at a frightening pace, it will be some time before the new casino and entertainment project makes a notable impact. The Queen’s Wharf project, which is projected to cost around $2 billion, is not set to break ground until 2017.