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Gold Coast 'on its knees' following shock walkout by tourism boss

Business

The hunt is on for a new Gold Coast tourism boss after Destination Gold Coast CEO Annaliese Battista suddenly quit the job, effective immediately, late Tuesday.

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Battista’s resignation ends her two years at the helm of the city’s peak tourism marketing body and comes as the Gold Coast continues to reel from a decimated tourism industry, is facing plummeting hotel occupancy rates, and has suffered an estimated $4 billion economic hit this year caused by the pandemic and shutdowns of domestic and international tourist markets.

In a statement, Battista said: “I’m incredibly privileged to have led Destination Gold Coast over the past two years. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together during this time. It is a fantastic organisation with a strong volunteer board and a dedicated team of professional staff.

“My decision to resign was in close consultation with the board. I am grateful for their support and guidance.”

Destination Gold Coast Board chairman Paul Donovan said Battista “did very well in the two years she was there and we wish her very well in the future.”

“That’s the way it is, we’ve got to move on. We’ve got a huge job to do.”

Battista’s move has blindsided many city business leaders and comes just days after she mounted a campaign calling for the State Government to relax local hospitality restrictions while the state remained in lockdown and doubled-down on the Gold Coast’s take no prisoners approach to snaring the bulk of Queensland’s available tourism market.

On Monday, Battista argued the combination of the hard closure of the Queensland border to NSW, ACT and Victoria and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young’s declaration that there were no new cases of community transmission after a scare caused by two women flying into Brisbane on July 21 carrying coronavirus that they contracted while in Melbourne, meant Queensland could loosen tight restrictions on Gold Coast hospitality businesses.

She also confirmed the Gold Coast was fighting for every available tourist dollar within the state.

“Our strategy is simply to go after 100 per cent of the market that’s available,” Battista said.

Within 24 hours, however, Battista walked.

Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall said he was shocked, but the Gold Coast needed to keep moving and “rise from the ashes.”

“The city is certainly on its knees now and we need that strong hand to lift us up out of it,” Hall told ABC radio.

In the past months, Battista has emerged as a strong advocate for more government funding to rescue the state’s devastated tourism industry.

But she fell foul of Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, who described Destination Gold Coast’s two pitches for more money in Council’s 2021 COVID budget “underwhelming”.

As a result, the body was handed $15.5 million in funding, the same figure it received in 2019-2020.

Donovan said Destination Gold Coast would continue working on the city’s recovery ahead of appointing a new chief.

“All we can do is get out there and try to encourage people,” he said.

“It’s really all about intra-state, so what we’re trying to do is keep encouraging the southeast Queensland market to come and visit the Gold Coast and enjoy what all those tourists who come from far and wide normally enjoy.”

He said the Gold Coast was also continuing to plan for post-pandemic easing of border restrictions.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right strategy in place, we’ve got the trigger ready should any borders reopen,” he said.

“So we’ve got the money, we’ve just got to get into the market.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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