A Decade of Tourism growth

As Capricorn Enterprise marks our ten year milestone, we reflect on a decade of highs and lows, collaboration and challenges for our regional tourism industry.

Last year was definitely a ‘high’ with official Tourism Research Australia data revealing record growth in both domestic and international visitation to the year ending December 2019 from the Central Highlands to the Keppel Islands.

1,233,000 visitors spent $668 million dollars across the Capricorn region, with another 1,506,000 day visitors spending $286 Million.

Visitation to our region is roughly one third business, one third holiday and one third VFR (visiting friends and relatives), with $3.6 Billion dollars worth of major infrastructure underway a significant contributor to our business visitation, fantastic events attracting more family and friends, and targeted product development, sector mentoring and marketing resulting in leisure visitor growth.

With global media reports about a “Coronavirus Infectious Disease” towards the end of last year, thus became COVID-19 and the social and economic impacts to Australia, particularly travel and tourism hit hard in mid-March 2020.

Previous challenges to the tourism industry included the GFC in 2007/08 resulting in the decision by Tower Holdings to close the Great Keppel Island Resort in February 2008.

Following the 5.30m flood in Rockhampton of Feb/March 2010, our region suffered major flooding in 2010-11 (particularly Emerald and Rockhampton at 9.20m), which led to the closure of the dinosaur footprint clay caverns at the Mount Morgan mine with the DNRM citing potential cavern collapse (nb: this has not occurred to date).  Subsequent floods of Feb/March 2012 (7.10m), Jan/Feb 2013 (8.61m) and March/April 2017 (8.80m) all caused further disruption to our visitor economy.

In February 2014, the Plaza Hotel Rockhampton closed suddenly. Then came Tropical Cyclone Marcia in February 2015, with Byfield receiving the full impact, before heading towards the Capricorn Coast and Rockhampton.

Capricorn Resort closed its accommodation in August 2016.  Severe bushfires at Carnarvon Gorge and the Capricorn Caves in November 2019 caused major havoc with the closure of Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge.   The Great Western Hotel Rockhampton closed its doors in June 2020 due to the covid crisis.

Yet, despite all these challenges, as listed below, we have welcomed significant investment over the past decade, particularly in hotel/apartment complexes as well as new tourism experiences across the region in the Central Highlands, Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast.

New Accommodation:

Capricorn Coast

Beaches on Lammermoor opened 2007

Emus Beach Resort opened October 2008

Rainforest Ranch – opened 2008

Echelon Apartments – opened 2009

Coral Inn boutique inn, Yeppoon – opened April 2013

Oshen Yeppoon – opened April 2014 (officially opened by Minister for Tourism Jann Stuckey)

Salt Yeppoon – opened February 2016 (officially opened by Minister Kate Jones)

Yeppoon Beachshack – opened in 2018


Edge Apartment Hotel – opened 2009

Denison Boutique Hotel – opened 2010 (formally 1886 heritage listed “Railway Administration Building”)

Quest Apartment Hotel – opened September 2013

Empire Apartment Hotel – opened January 2015

Quality Regent Hotel – opened August 2014 (formally 1914 heritage listed TAFE college)

Coco Brew – accommodation opened June 2020

Central Highlands

Abode 37, Emerald

Emerald Inn

Emerald Park Motel

Mayfair Motel, Emerald

Route 66 Motor Inn, Emerald

Villas on Rivergum, Emerald

Duaringa White Eagle Motel

Sandstone Park, Carnarvon Gorge – opened 2017

Major refurbishments/extension of existing Product

Great Keppel Island Hideaway – new owners July 2014 renamed and relaunched

Takarakka Bush Resort, Carnarvon Gorge – expansion and new studio cabins launched 2016

Capricorn Caves – extension to include eco-tent accomodation

New Tourism Experiences (Private sector)

Hooked on Fishing

CQ River Cruises & Reel Fishing CQ

Keppel Explorer

Keppel Dive & GKI Watersports

Keppel Konnections

Rockhampton Helicopters

Little Aussie Encounters

Rise Environmental & Guiding Services

Double Threat Charters

Guided Fishing Downunder

New Tourism Experiences (Public infrastructure)

Mount Archer N/P ‘Nurim’ skywalk in Rockhampton

Rockhampton Riverfront Redevelopment

Yeppoon Lagoon and foreshore redevelopment

Wreck Point Lookout in Yeppoon

Emu Park ANZAC Memorial and foreshore redevelopment

Sapphire Gemfields Interpretive Trail

Mount Morgan town centre

Note: this is not an exhaustive list – please let us know if we have missed something.

2019 December quarter visitors Capricorn region

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