FORMER GLORY: Aldesta Hotel Group is preparing to reopen the cyclone-decimated Wilson Island.
FORMER GLORY: Aldesta Hotel Group is preparing to reopen the cyclone-decimated Wilson Island. GAPDL

Tiny neglected Gladstone island set to reopen as luxe getaway

A TINY neglected island off Gladstone's coast that once boasted high-end accommodation will be returned to its former glory.

Aldesta Hotel Group, which also owns Heron Island Resort, has started repairs at Wilson Island after it closed about four years ago.

The six luxury tents at Wilson Island have been hammered by cyclones and storms.

It's hoped the Wilson Island accommodation will welcome its first guests within six months, Aldesta Hotel Group vice-president Stuart Hammond said.

Work is expected to resumes early March following the end of bird-nesting season.

Speaking to The Observer from Vancouver, Mr Hammond said the Capricorn Cays National Park Island, 45 minutes from Heron Island, had been a lost tourism opportunity for Gladstone.

Wilson Island, which accommodates a maximum of 12 guests, was once recommended by upmarket magazine Conde Nast Traveller as one of the best island resorts on the Great Barrier Reef.

"It's a very small window between (April) and July to get the employees and the boat, but for us, the sooner (we open) the better," Mr Hammond said.

"We hope within six months we can offer luxury camping experiences to those guests who want a private island feel with the beautiful surroundings of the Great Barrier Reef and the wildlife that really only a handful of people can enjoy at once at Wilson Island."

He said the Australian and Queensland Governments were supportive of the renewal project and were keen to see the island "brought back to life".

 

 

Heron Island is now owned and managed by Aldesta Hotel Group.
Heron Island is now owned and managed by Aldesta Hotel Group. James Vodicka

The rejuvenation of Wilson Island will add to the $5.7billion the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry already contributes to the Australian economy.

Aldesta Hotel Group purchased Heron and Wilson Islands in January last year, its first foray into Australia's tourism market.

In December, it took over management from Delaware North.

Mr Hammond said for previous owners it was a "challenge" to keep Heron Island Resort profitable.

With upgrades to infrastructure underway and changes already made to the restaurants, Mr Hammond said the company wanted to make Heron Island a holiday hotspot.

Since taking over management, the company has also made what was formerly the general manager's residence a two-bedroom beachfront home, described as the "jewel" of all rooms, available to guests.

"Our main focus right now is almost everything the guests can't see ... we need to secure the infrastructure to ensure the longevity of the island," Mr Hammond said.

"I do suspect we will see a little (increase) in profit this year ... When you're taking something over these things don't happen overnight," he said.

This year the company also needs to dredge the channel, used by the Gladstone transfer vessel, which has gradually built up sand.

Adding knowledge of the Gladstone tourism market is Karen Sweeney, Gladstone Area Promotion Development Limited's former tourism executive officer.

Ms Sweeney handles sales and marketing of Heron and Wilson Islands for Aldesta Property Group.

"Everyone (at Heron) is enjoying the re-energising of life and enthusiasm we're bringing to the island and we want that enthusiasm," Mr Hammond said.

"Our goal is to make sure that this resort is an elevated experience with ecotourism as well as being a leader in the luxury market for the guests who aren't all about going snorkelling or diving."



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