by Shannon Willoughby
SURFERS Paradise and Broadbeach will convert to Islam and feature more prayer rooms, halal restaurants and extended trading hours, says Mayor Tom Tate.
On his return from the Middle East, Cr Tate will meet with traders, restaurant owners, hotels and marketing bodies to look at how both tourism areas can better cater for high-yield Middle Eastern tourists.
He also wants to extend trading hours during Ramadan to cater for the later rising and dining tourists as one of the major criticisms was the early closing hours of many Gold Coast restaurants.
About 20,000 Gulf tourists visit the region each year, staying on average for about a month with combined spending of between $53 million and $75 million.
Numbers have been down in recent years with the Islamic festival Ramadan falling in the middle of school holiday period.
Holidaymakers travel either side of Ramadan.
“I want to double the number of students and double tourism and I think in order to do that, we bring the traders and retailers together to talk about their culture and what we can be doing to grow tourism,” Cr Tate said from Abu Dhabi.
“If we are going to be a truly global destination, then we need to think about these things.”
Surfers Paradise Alliance chairwoman Laura Younger said she would welcome discussions if it meant adding value for businesses in the precinct.
“If the traders see there is an opportunity, there is no doubt they would adapt to that opportunity,’ she said.
“Surfers is a very diverse multicultural precinct and traders are always looking for new opportunities.”
Islamic Society of Gold Coast secretary Hussain Baba urged the Gold Coast to be better equipped.
“The Muslim tourist loves to shop and it would be great to have places to pray in the shopping areas. That way they don’t have to go to the Mosque or go back to the hotel they can continue shopping.
“They also like to shop until late, so extended trading hours would be good. This is not just for the middle eastern tourists, but the Chinese Muslim groups and the Indonesians and Malaysians,” he said.
The owner of the Tandoori Place at Surfers Paradise, Surjit Singh Dhillon, said he would welcome discussions about extended trading.
“Already we have big groups from the Middle East which come in at 10pm and we open to 11pm,” he said.
“We would be more than happy to talk about further extending these hours. People now realise the market is there and we stock halal meat to (cater for) any Muslim.”
Cr Tate this week visited the Director General of the Department of Tourism and Commercial Marketing, Helal Al Marri, as part of his 10-day trade mission in the UAE.
Cr Tate said about 500 students from the Middle East visited the Gold Coast each year.
He said as part of ongoing relationships with the Middle East, he would bring a delegation to include the vice-chancellors from both Bond and Griffith universities to the region next year to form “working groups” to build on the double figure target.