Back to schoolies: Coast tourism missing out on millions
THE Sunshine Coast's business leaders have called on the region to embrace schoolies once again.
Chambers of Commerce Alliance Sunshine Coast president Michael Shadforth and Sunshine Coast Business Council chairwoman Sandy Zubrinich believe the Coast cannot afford to turn its back on the multi-million-dollar boost schoolies could provide.
The Coast once had a vibrant schoolies scene with activities organised by council, including live entertainment on Mooloolaba Beach.
But the council withdrew its support in 2008, activities were axed and the number of teenagers heading for the Coast quickly fell off.
Today, only a few graduates looking for a quiet getaway turn up.
"To turn your back on this market is ridiculous," Mr Shadforth said as the Gold Coast geared up to attract tens of thousands of young revellers.
"These (schoolies) are loyal Queenslanders who will one day be looking to holiday somewhere when they are married with kids.
"Schoolies is an incredible opportunity to impress upon people to holiday here. If they talk about how great schoolies is, it sticks in their head.
"Some come here, find nothing to do and that sticks in their head and they don't come back for a long time.
"The 'nothing to do here' is not a brand we really want.
"It's important to understand the sophisticated organisation that goes into schoolies' events. It's a long way from 20 years ago."
Ms Zubrinich said kids had "just as much right to enjoy the Sunshine Coast as any other location".
"They can spend their money on the Gold Cost, why not spend their money on this Coast?" she said.
"We have put a stigma on a part of society we should be embracing not ostracising. Their money is as good as anyone else's."
Sunshine Coast Destination CEO Simon Ambrose said the Coast was "not traditionally a popular schoolies destination, however, we do offer an alternative as a safe, natural destination".
He planned to canvass interest in hosting future schoolies events with his members next year.
"It is a lucrative area we need to investigate. It is up the people who will be hosting schoolies," he said.
"It is probably time to have the conversation."
Do you think the Coast needs to cater for more Schoolies?
This poll ended on 23 January 2015.
Yes, let's give them organised activities and help our tourism industry
No, we don't want them, send them to the Gold Coast
I'm not sure, it depends what sort of activities the Schoolies are looking for
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Mooloolaba Business and Tourism chairman Peter Foran said there had been no interest in hosting schoolies events in Mooloolaba.
"We haven't had calls on it for years," he said.
A Sunshine Coast Council spokeswoman said that the council did not run or fund any schoolies' activities.
"We do, however, support the work provided by Street Angels in ensuring a safe environment is provided to all visitors to the Sunshine Coast," she said.
"Traditionally, schoolies who visit the Sunshine Coast enjoy a relaxed atmosphere away from the other schoolies' locations."
National schoolies booking site, Schoolies.com CEO Matt Lloyd said since the Coast had dipped out of organising events, interest in the region had dropped.
He said he had about 500 bookings this year, compared to the 40,000 who go to the Gold Coast or the 4000 to 5000 who go Airlie Beach and the 6000 to 8000 who go to Byron Bay.
"Schoolies spend about $1500 for the week on the Gold Coast, that's another $60 million injection into its economy which is pretty substantial at a historically quiet time of the year," he said.
"There was a lot of bad imagery coming out of the Gold Coast about 10 years ago around schoolies.
"This has changed.
"It is really well run event with 400 extra police and 600 Red Frogs.
"Airlie Beach and Byron Bay do have events which help attract people."