Coast economy facing ‘toughest ever’ six months
THE $55 million loss of the GC600 carnival is just the tip of a COVID-19 iceberg sinking the city's lucrative events calendar, warn civic leaders bracing for a tough six months.
The annual motorsport carnival was due to celebrate its 30th anniversary in October but was scrapped at the weekend by Supercars bosses.
They said they could not justify the cost and disruption of building the Surfers Paradise street circuit with no crowds or corporate boxes allowed.
The move has left business owners and political leaders reeling, with warnings the loss of the city's biggest single event will devastate already struggling accommodation providers and hospitality operators.
Mayor Tom Tate has vowed the GC600 will return bigger and better in 2021 but business and tourism leaders say there is worse pain to come.
Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista warned the GC600 loss was just one of several major events likely to be scrapped.
"Its loss, along with others, means we will not have a calendar of events for the rest of 2020," she said.
"My fear is while this cancellation is not a shock, it is another blow to the tourism sector and gives me a great sense of foreboding about the path ahead for the tourism sector because the next six months will be the most difficult in the Gold Coast's history from an economic point of view.
"There is the real risk of the Gold Coast having its own self-contained recession as a result of these tourism losses which will have a direct flow on to other fields such as construction."
Ms Battista will front Gold Coast City Council's special budget committee today to lay out how up to $4 million of extra funding will be spent to help revive the city's $6 billion-a-year tourism industry.
The GC600, which began as Indy in 1991, brings in more than 114,000 people annually for its three-day carnival in October, injecting $45-$55 million into the economy.
Business kingpin Tony Cochrane, who played a key role in Indy, said the cancellation of GC600 was unavoidable and he expected more would follow.
"Street racing simply cannot go ahead if you do not have the ability to host a crowd or corporate boxes, which are two of the biggest revenue streams," he said.
The coronavirus has already cost the Gold Coast more than $4 billion, with the city expected to see up to 10 million less tourists this year.
Cr Tate said losing the GC600 would have a major impact.
"This is another massive blow with the GC600 worth more than $50 million to the economy each year," he said.
"While it is wonderful to see so many of our businesses reopening this weekend, this is a reminder of the difficult road ahead."
Broadwater MP David Crisafulli said the loss of GC600 would be counted not just in the direct economic impact on traders and businesses.
"It's disappointing not just because of its direct value to our economy but the images of a sun baked Gold Coast into the locked-down lounge rooms throughout the country would've been more important than ever," he said.
Surfers Paradise MP John-Paul Langbroek described it as a "hammer blow" to the Coast's economy.
"With the return to semi-normal activity this weekend a lot of us have been more focused on the short-term but this is a hammer blow to the economy," he said.
"GC600 offers the Gold Coast the biggest return on investment for the Gold Coast. We need the State Government to tell us what they are going to do from a promotional stance.
"As they say in the classics, show us the money."
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the government was "working closely with Supercars during this tough time".
"Of course, we'd love to see the GC600 go ahead but the reality is, they can't break the law or health advice," she said.
"The last thing we want to see is what happened in Rocky in recent days happen on the Gold Coast right before school holidays - that would be even more damaging to the local tourism industry.
"Ultimately this is a decision for Supercars leadership, not major backers like the State Government and Gold Coast City Council.
"We'll continue to work with Supercars to ensure as soon as they're allowed back on track, that we can build the GC600 back up to be bigger and better than ever."
Originally published as Coast economy facing 'toughest ever' six months