Greater use of Gold Coast beaches by restaurants & cafes would boost tourism

Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Aerial view of Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Mike Winlaw, CEO of the Surfers Paradise Alliance, a business chamber, has suggested the Gold Coast take inspiration from Bali and allow commercial operators greater access to the beachfront. The Gold Coast Bulletin reports that Mr Winlaw said:

“Many tourism destinations have successfully differentiated themselves by offering an exceptional beachside experience combining entertainment and dining, right by the water’s edge.

“With our spectacularly wide coastline, I believe this is an opportunity the Gold Coast needs to seize and one which, if done right, would add much value to the region’s tourism offering by activating that differentiating experience for our own beautiful beaches.

“We have already seen the emergence of a sophisticated dining culture on the Coast, but most of the popular cafes and restaurants have been established in villages set back from the water.

“While there has been some move towards the sustainable commercialisation of our beaches, so far nothing significant has eventuated and other than a limited number of locations across the Coast there is nowhere residents or visitors to the Gold Coast can enjoy the magic experience of dining or being entertained right on the sand as the they watch the waves lapping the shore or the moon rising over the ocean.

What a terrific idea from Mr Winlaw. It is consistent with the point that I and other economists have frequently made that our rules and regulations are significant and often inappropriate constraints on economic activity and employment opportunities. You may recall I discussed the role of policy settings in influencing unemployment in my last post on the upcoming Ted Evans lecture and recent Queensland employment trends.

I should also note that allowing commercial operators greater access to beaches was an idea advanced in the leaked 2015 draft Economic action plan from the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet, a plan which regrettably was quickly disowned by the risk averse State Government. Action item 3.42 was:

Allow business to operate on QLD beaches with special permits. Find a way to allow commercial activity on QLD beaches. While there is a need to control commercial activity on public land, like beaches, there are some activities that would be acceptable to the community. Increasing the commercial activity will increase economic activity, provide services to the public and create jobs.

Given the secrecy around government policy advice and decision making, and given the main author of the Economic Action Plan is no longer in the department, it is unclear whether the Premier’s department is still producing such provocative and economically sensible pieces of policy advice.

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