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Four projects awarded Visitor First Experience Funding

08 Nov 2023

Four new tourist experiences from across Queensland have been given a major cash injection with funding announced from the $3 million Visitor First Experience Fund (VFE).

The four operators have each received grants to upgrade, increase or bring online new visitor experiences.

Cape Hillsborough Nature Retreat is set to receive a facelift $700,000 to replace outdated accommodation and upgrade caravan sites, its park entry and reception.

NRMA Parks and Resorts CEO Paul Davies said over the next twelve months the retreat would undergo stage one of a two stage transformation of the existing resort, repurposing it into an idyllic, eco-sustainable retreat.

“The Cape Hillsborough Nature Retreat is in a prime nature position, sitting adjacent to a marine park as well as the beautiful Cape Hillsborough National Park, famous for its rainforest, eucalypt forest, rocky headlands, and volcanic rock formations,” Mr Davies said.

“We’re excited to be working on a considered, reinvigorated accommodation offering that will include tent and pod accommodation on the foreshore, new cabins and upgrades to the pool and landscape.”

The redevelopment will include a new entry precinct with outdoor facilities for both park guests and day visitors, a redesigned reception and restaurant area, and an integrated pathway complete with interpretive signage and artwork that will link the park with the beach and offer education on the region’s cultural significance.

Annual visitor numbers to Cape Hillsborough Nature Retreat are anticipated to increase by 29,244 per year and the project is expected to generate more than $3 million in additional annual expenditure for the region.

Family at lookout near the beach.

In Queensland’s south-east, the iconic Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary will create an immersive light and video experience receiving $1 million through the VFE Fund.

The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Astra Lumina project will create an outdoor night activation experience offering a 60 minute luminous journey along a 1.5km trail.

Inspired by the stars, the new night experience should be ready by mid 2024 and has a total project value of $5 million.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary General Manager Travis Couch said the venue had worked with Canadian based multimedia company Moment Factory to create the first experience of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to bring the world-renowned Astra Lumina experience to the Gold Coast and to Queensland,” Mr Couch said.

“The experience is an invitation to discover the Sanctuary in a brand-new light.

“The trail will allow guests to explore the grounds in search of light, cosmic visions, and soundscapes.”

Family at the entrance of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Townsville based Funtastic Cruises NQ will use their $387,000 grant to deliver Townsville’s first fast boat experience bringing visitors to Magnetic Island, the Palm Island group and the Great Barrier Reef.

The two new 12 metre mono-hull boats fitted with accessibility features, including one with wheelchair access, will be built over the next twelve months and are expected to be online by the second half of 2024.

At a total estimated project cost of $1.5 million the new fast boat experiences are expected to increase visitor numbers to the region by 15,000.

Funtastic NQ Adventures Director Ollie Heales said expanding adventures to Townsville, Magnetic and Palm Island Group and the outer reef had long been part of their plans.

“The Visitor First Experience Fund has helped to make this happen sooner, giving us the confidence moving forward,” Mr Heales said.

“The Funtastic NQ Adventures' Fast Boat tourist experience represents a unique and valuable opportunity for the Townsville region bringing new tourism experiences and economic growth to the locals, and state economy.”

“Funtastic Adventures NQ is excited to be part of the renewed and growing Townsville / North Queensland tourism industry, bringing an immersive and accessible world-class tourist experience that locals and visitors will love.”

Image of beach at Magnetic Island.

Brisbane-based tourism business See Moreton plans to expand its whale watching and snorkelling, 4WD adventures and Flinders Reef discovery cruise with the $1 million received through the VFE Fund.

Over the next 12 months, See Moreton will use the funding to support construction of a custom 22 metre vessel and purchase two customised 4WDs to deliver whale watching, snorkelling and sub-tropical reef trips, as well as new 4WD tours covering the north and south of the island.

Visitors will be able to enjoy more year-round experiences on and around Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) with the new adventures ready to book by the end of 2024.

See Moreton Director Anthony Ardern said the VFE funding would increase stability and enhance day to trips to Mulgumpin (Moreton Island).

“The funding allows us to operate year-round which will deliver economic benefits and four new tourism experiences making Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) a leading destination for nature-based tourism in the lead up to the Brisbane Olympics whilst also protecting the natural assets and character of the island,” Mr Ardern said.

“See Moreton is incredibly excited to be selected for the Visitor First Experience Fund.”

The total project value is $4.8 million, and it is anticipated the new experiences will increase annual visitor numbers to the region by 8,444 and generate an estimated $2.3 million in additional expenditure each year.

Image of boats in water near ship wrecks at Moreton Island.

The Visitor First Experience funding will leverage overall a total of more than $10.1 million in private investment, supporting 49 jobs during construction and a further 54 ongoing jobs when all the new experiences are operating.