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The value of storytelling at Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas

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The value of storytelling at Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas
Long before it became reliant on tourism as its major business, Port Douglas depended on the cane farmers and the mills that produced a broad range of sugar products. In the 1920s, the sugar industry needed help in the cane fields and many Italians answered the call.

Now Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas, is paying homage to the Italian families, many in their second and third generations growing and cutting the cane, by hosting regular Italian dinner feasts and masterclasses in spirit-making at the resort.

The resort’s marketing director, Deb McDiarmid, sees the engagement with this community as an important part of the experience program, proving popular with both leisure and business events guests. On average, up to 30 per cent of resort guests are there for business events and the stories of the tough times cutting cane in the hot Queensland tropics resonates.

McDiarmid worked for many years as a Superbowl event manager in  USA, including working with the New York Giants the year they won the iconic match. More recently working in Asia, she returned to Australia during the pandemic and moved to Port Douglas when Marriott opted to employ separate specialists in sales and marketing.

She took on the marketing role calling it “the perfect job for me, which is storytelling…a connection with the past”. She chanced upon an old Italian family after stopping at a roadside fruit stall and began to hear the “fabulous” tales of times gone by.

She said the property invited a number of the Italian families to special dinners to join guests at the table and share their stories. Separately, the resort hosts monthly masterclasses in distilling the popular spirits derived from the cane.

And with a range of 18 indoor and outdoor event spaces at the 147 hectare resort – even the onsite chapel became a classroom during the recent Taste Port Douglas event – there are many unique opportunities to embrace the local community and enhance the guest experience, especially for business events.

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