A NUMBER of popular tourist attractions in Surfers Paradise have come together and joined forces in protest against the Gold Coast City Council’s decision to sell the 1600-space Bruce Bishop car park.
The operators of Timezone, Infinity, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! and the Wax Museum released a joint statement on Thursday, warning the “naïve and short sighted” decision “will lead to the decimation of Surfers Paradise”.
The Gold Coast is visited by 3.8 million domestic visitors, 1.8 million international tourists and 8.6 million day trip visitors per year.
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A large majority of these people visit Surfers Paradise. Almost all of the day trippers arrive by car. (source: Tourism & Events Queensland Gold Coast Regional Snapshot December 2016)
“Affordable parking and easy accessibility to all that Surfers has to offer are critically important to international and domestic tourists, day trippers and residents,” the General Manager of the Infinity Attraction at Chevron Renaissance Tane Thompson said.
“This is the consistent message in all of our extensive customer research, and it has been the same for the past 15 years. The introduction of the tram service hasn’t changed that.”
Mr Thompson says the cost of public transport and travel times were the main factors influencing local Gold Coast residents who didn’t live along the tram line to continue driving into Surfers.
“A family of four from Mudgeeraba coming in to see the fireworks or any other event would travel at least 1 hour 10
minutes each way to come to Surfers on buses and tram connections, at a cost of over $40,” Mr Thompson said.
“Obviously, they will continue to drive in as that takes only about 25 – 30 mins each way and costs a few dollars for petrol and parking.
“The attractions industry sector is a major employer and a huge driver of business into the precinct, drawing in around 1 million people to the precinct each year, and they also eat, drink and shop and shop while they are here.
“Removing car parking is a major threat to viability in the precinct. This decision is going to hurt a lot of people and cost a lot of jobs.”
The General Manager of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Lisa Tucker said she found council’s decision astonishing and said it was just another “nail in the coffin for Surfers”.
“Like lots of other businesses here, our customers use the Bruce Bishop car park and find it conveniently located and reasonably priced,” she said.
“We are in Cavill Mall – where else can people park? Most of the metered street parking is 1 – 2 hours only, with parking fines of $70 or more for overstaying.
“Many people come in to make a day or evening of it, going to the beach, shopping, dining somewhere and visiting the leisure and entertainment attractions afterwards.
“They need long term parking at reasonable rates. It’s a crazy decision that will cause untold damage to everyone in Surfers – business, residents and ratepayers too.
“Visitor numbers into Surfers have not returned to what they were before the light rail construction, and this decision will drive them down even further.”
The Director of the family entertainment giant Timezone in Surfers Paradise Juan Uribe said the decision would “decimate” the glitter strip.
“The Council took the decision to provide for parking needs into the 21st century when it built Bruce Bishop car park over 25 years ago,” Mr Uribe said.
“It recognized that demand would continue to grow as visitor numbers and the resident population increased over the future decades.
“Many business owners invested in Surfers Paradise relying on car parking being available for their customers.
“Now this Council is taking a short-sighted decision to remove 1,600 car parks and replace them with about 700 two or three years later, after the site is redeveloped.
“Apart from the permanent loss of 900 parks, where will people park during the 2 – 3 years of construction when all 1,600 parks are gone? It’s madness,” said Mr Uribe.
Mr Uribe said several other major tourism attractions including the Wax Museum and the $6.5 million Dracula’s Haunted House will also be adversely affected by the decision.
Long-time owner of the popular Wax Museum Peter Tomlinson said it was “very disappointing” to see council vote in favour of selling the asset.
“Hundreds of kerbside car parks were removed in Surfers to make room for the tram tracks, and the Council also tried to close the 250 space Cypress Ave car park permanently.
“Luckily, that plan was dumped. We can’t afford to lose more parking here. Just ask the business owners forced to close during tram construction how important easy access and affordable parking are to survival.
“The taking of the Bruce Bishop Carpark reflects the Gold Coast City councillors attitude to tourism in Surfers Paradise.
“Surfers Paradise is the crown of the Gold Coast tourism, and it is the large sums invested by the tourism operators that has made Surfers Paradise what it is today.” Mr Tomlinson said.