New tourism boss reveals how she will save Coast
NEW Destination Gold Coast boss Patricia O'Callaghan has vowed to restore the city as Australia's tourism capital within three years.
The 37-year-old industry veteran is the Gold Coast tourism body's new CEO, beating out a record field of more than 300 applicants with an action plan designed to return the city's biggest industry to its successful pre-COVID state.
Taking up her role in February, she replaces outspoken former CEO Annaliese Battista who resigned from the high-profile role under mysterious circumstances in August.
Ms Battisa fell out with both the State Government and Gold Coast City Council over her forthright lobbying for more tourism funding both prior to and during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ms O'Callaghan, the CEO of Townsville Enterprises, said she was tried and tested in a crisis and was ready to tackle the role of reviving the city's $6 billion golden goose with a plan focus on a "shared vision", developing new attractions and selling the Coast to the rest of Australia and the rest of the world.
"There are huge challenges ahead but I am not unknown to a crisis given here in north Queensland we have had to deal with cyclones, monsoons, floods a mining downturn and COVID in the past decade," she said.
"As a community we managed to work through it and come out stronger and through any crisis there is opportunity and I have the skills which can assist at a time like this."
It was critical for the Gold Coast to be "first in line" for international visitors once border reopen but the focus in the meantime would be on drawing intrastate tourists back, she said.
"Marketing to Australia will be critical as will bringing more people back to the Gold Coast but I believe we are uniquely placed to be the number one choice for tourists.
"We need to have a shared vision, not just to rebuild but to grow too and we will work with all levels of government on improving access and being strong advocates.
"As the international borders open we need to be first in line because it is going to be competitive."
The married mother of one, originally from Mt Isa, has holidayed on the Gold Coast many times and cited the beaches and Hinterland as her favourite attractions.
Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan said it was Ms O'Callaghan's action plan which clinched her the coveted job.
"It was a tight decision but Patricia is a pro," he said.
"She has been successful in Townsville and her persona is wonderful, she cares about the staff and put together a strategic plan which outlined everything we need to do to get back to where we were and beyond in three years."
City leaders have welcomed Ms O'Callaghan's appointment as a "shot in the arm" the industry needs.
Mayor Tom Tate said he was "confident" the right choice had been made.
"We have a great deal of challenges ahead as we start to navigate our way out of COVID-19 and its impact on tourism both locally and globally," he said.
"Our appeal as a destination remains strong and I am confident we have the right CEO at the helm to deliver the results we need."
Gold Coast-based Opposition leader David Crisafulli, who dealt with Ms O'Callaghan when he was a Townsville MP, described her as a "determined fighter and a born and bred Queenslander."
"She'll do our city proud," he said.
Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall said Ms O'Callaghan's appointment would save the industry, which he described as "rudderless" since Ms Battista's departure.
"We need to turn this frown upside down and we are really keen to work with Patricia as a united front to get this industry back on track because right now it has less than a year's fuel in it."
Originally published as New tourism boss reveals how she will save Coast