Crystalbrook Collection CEO, Geoff York.
Crystalbrook Collection Interim CEO, Geoff York.

Cairns’ controversial proposal to implement a council levy in order to increase promotional activity has received a somewhat unlikely ally in Crystalbrook Collection, which will next month open its third five-star resort in 18 months in the city.

In an exclusive statement to HM, Crystalbrook Collection Acting CEO, Geoff York, has outlined a five-point conditional endorsement for the proposed levy, under which it is prepared to recognise its potential benefits to the city from a broader tourism perspective.

York has called on Cairns Regional Council to ensure the levy applies to all forms of accommodation across Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove, including hotels, Airbnb, motels and caravan parks, with “every single dollar raised” to go to destination marketing. Further, the levy must not be used as an excuse or cover to reduce existing funding levels to Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) – the region’s primary promotional body.

The Crystalbrook boss also called on TTNQ to form a subcommittee of major accommodation providers in the region to workshop how money raised from the levy will be spent each year.

Riley was the first of three Crystalbrook Collection resorts to open in Cairns, in late 2018.

York told HM that in years past, he has lobbied against the introduction of such taxes but acknowledged the world is changing and other cities have proven that the introduction of such imposts can result in the opening and development of new visitor markets.

“In my mind, and those of many others, Cairns requires a significant and ongoing boost in its marketing efforts both domestically and internationally.

“Hence some rethinking on this issue has been required together with a belief that implementation of such a levy across the Cairns region accommodation sector is now required.

“The alternative is to be here in three years watching destination market share wane and lamenting missed opportunities due to a lack of RTO marketing funds,” York added.

Its second resort, Bailey, opened a year later, in November 2019.

Crystalbrook said “what is good for us can only be good for the city” and that its $450 million-plus worth of investment in the region over recent years must be given every opportunity to prosper through enhanced destination marketing.

“Traditionally, membership income and local and state governments coffers have been sources of destination marketing funds for Far North Queensland,” York said.

“These are not limitless and more is required over and above the recent one-off tourism recovery funds already allocated.”

Cairns Mayor, Bob Manning, has made the tourism levy a cornerstone of his upcoming local re-election campaign, promising to lobby the Queensland government to legislate for local councils to sustain their own tourism industries.