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Port Douglas draws a crowd – both visitors and new residents

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Port Douglas draws a crowd – both visitors and new residents
As a business event add-on, Taste Port Douglas certainly managed to draw a crowd to a long weekend of tropical culinary activities, many of them from Melbourne.

Tara Bennett, CEO of Tourism Port Douglas & Daintree, says thousands of visitors and locals attended events across the town and she joked that there were so many big name Melbourne chefs in town that “half the Melbourne restaurants must have been empty”.

The hub for Taste Port Douglas, now in its seventh year, was Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas, the largest resort property in the region.  Resident chef Spencer Patrick conceived the food festival idea with his wife Rainer and has even moved his restaurant Harrison’s into the resort.

Port Douglas emerged from the pandemic without losing any big businesses, according to Patrick. “It was just the lack of workers, the backpackers, that made it hard last year, but we have seen a huge comeback of backpackers from South America, Europe and UK as well,” he said.

A major issue that accompanied the return of backpackers and the number of new residents from down south now living and working remotely was a lack of accommodation. Bennett said this was an issue many regional communities faced, and representations were being made by the industry to federal, state and regional governments.

“AirBnB has also taken away some of the stock so it is a crunch that is being felt around Australia due to a variety of changes that have happened…we are seeing a lot of businesses getting creative. Some have purchased houses and apartments, others are taking out leases so they can secure accommodation for their staff. That had to happen quite quickly for businesses that were in a position to do that. It is an issue we are grappling with and sharing that conversation with a lot of other regions.”

The other group arriving in large numbers are Americans, both for leisure and business. Sheraton Grand Mirage in Port Douglas, now part of Marriott Bonvoy, has seen a buyouts of the hotel for incentive groups – 500 adults and 130 children – earlier this year with the bulk of participants arriving from USA. Another similar buyout is expected at the property late this year.

micenet was the only media outlet invited to attend Taste Port Douglas this year, along with a small group of representatives from corporate travel and destination management companies, who also confirmed that Port Douglas was one of the top choices for the incentive market, both nationally and internationally.

While the Great Barrier Reef, as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, continues to be the major drawcard, other experiences, such as the strength of the town’s tropical culinary reputation and laidback lifestyle are winning visitors and new residents.

A quick visit to the town’s main commercial centre shows new developments rising, but unlike some centres where skyscrapers exceed 80 levels, the local rule is that no building shall be higher than a palm tree, which Bennet says translates to “three storeys”.

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