SUCCESS STORY: 'Grom' Mellick takes 17 backpackers on a surfing lesson at Agnes Water.
SUCCESS STORY: 'Grom' Mellick takes 17 backpackers on a surfing lesson at Agnes Water. JD Stuart

Access to Great Keppel Island key to backpacker success

CAPRICORN Coast tourist operators are making inroads into claiming a bigger slice of the lucrative backpacker market, according to an industry spokesperson.

Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll, responding to The Weekend Bulletin's story, How to Ride the Backpacker Tourist Wave, said while the Yeppoon Surf School was only attracting a handful of backpackers a year, other coast businesses were increasing numbers in that sector despite a number of challenges.

Ms Carroll said Emus Beach Resort was already attracting more than 10,000 backpackers per annum as was Great Keppel island, but the key to luring even more to the region was improving access to their key tourism "hook".

She believes that "hook" (or the must-visit attraction) is Great Keppel Island, however the region needs to make it easier for tourists to get there.

"As Yeppoon and the Capricorn Coast are off the main highway, we as a destination and our operators have to work much harder in getting visitors to turn off the highway on their way up the east coast," she said.

"So having a 'hook' is critical against strong competition from larger

and more established destinations.

"Between them, these destinations have hundreds of operators who have been actively working with tourism trade for decades (and providing seamless transport links), which means many visitors, particularly our international youth traveller, have been sold those destinations, often prior to their arrival in Australia, and often prior to their departure from Sydney.

"In comparison, on the Capricorn Coast we have increased from only a few operators actively working with tourism trade (i.e. contracted and paying commissions) six years ago to over 10 operators now actively contracting and working with tourism trade."

"Great Keppel Island Hideaway (which is only three years new) is now contracting in the tourism trade distribution system and has seen an increase in this sector over the past year as a result.

"However, the 'connectively' issue from Rockhampton to the ferry terminals has continued to be a key 'missing link' and these operators are working hard to correct this."

She said "Destination Marketing" was critical, but so too was the need for local operators to package and pay commissions to those who pre-sell a destination package, particularly in the "backpacker" sector or "youth traveller" sector.

"This can be a complex issue in regards to operator yield and understanding tourism distribution channels, which is why Capricorn Enterprise has spent a lot of time, money and effort in training operators in "Trade Mentoring" and "Digital Mentoring" programs over the past five years," she said.

She said Wayne "Grom" Mellick's Reef 2 Beach Surf School, which attracts more than 10,000 backpackers a year to Agnes Water, was a great success story.

She said he had built that up over 20 years.

"He is somewhat of an attraction himself, with his quirky style being picked up by travel writers and travel shows," she said.

Ms Carroll said she was excited by the potential of the planned Yeppoon Foreshore lagoon/lazy river attraction to add real pulling power to the backpacker market.

Another promising venture is Rockhampton's Mt Archer adventure park concept, with its plans for high standard mountain bike trials, bush walks, zip lines etc.

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