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When you meet an international tourist exploring the Sunshine Coast it’s always rewarding to hear how much they appreciate our landscape, our attractions, our great food scene and our genuine hospitality

They generally return home telling all their friends about the experience and a year or so later, even more visitors come to our shores to discover our ‘backyard’. In fact, international visitation to the Sunshine Coast grew by 8.2% to 294,000 in the year ending September 2017, with Germany the star performer with growth of 24.2% to 39,000 visitors.

Of course, growth in visitor numbers does mean beaches, roads and restaurants may be a little busier, but would we have projects such as the upgrading of the Wharf Mooloolaba along with all the new restaurants, bars and cafes without increases in visitor numbers? It’s doubtful.

Only a few decades ago you could count the number of Germans or Americans on your left hand. Today, an international visitor is likely to stay at least 10 days and spend thousands of dollars. That money goes to local businesses, contributes to local employment, and encourages restaurateurs to come from interstate and set up business here – for the benefit of locals and visitors alike.

Two-hatted chef, Stuart Bell, has just moved from the 5-star Ten Minutes by Tractor in the Mornington Peninsula to take over at Harry’s at Buderim. At the Wharf Mooloolaba, restaurateur and chef Tony Kelly, formerly of Hello Harry, has opened the pan-Asian Rice Boi and fish and chippery, Saltwater, while chef Simon Taylor has been lured back to the Coast after distinguished stints in Sydney and Melbourne to revitalise Mooloolaba Yacht Club with the launch of Pier 33, specialising in sustainably caught local seafood.

This weekend the first ever Sunshine Coast Asian Food Festival is being held at Spicers Tamarind, highlighting the Sunshine Coast’s unique affinity with Asian food, and follows the expansion last year of the legendary Spirit House with the opening of the Hong Sa Bar and private dining room.

Fortunately for our tourism and economic future, the Sunshine Coast is a ‘hot’ destination around the world. Next month, the largest travel trade conference – ITB – will be held in Berlin, and our German representatives will continue to shine the spotlight on our destination, while last month in America, our teenage ambassador – Australia Zoo’s Robert Irwin – put the focus on his home town in a whirlwind of media interviews.

Asia too is being exposed to our ‘sunny charms’ with our international sales team working with Tourism and Events Queensland, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir on a marketing campaign aimed at tapping into the huge potential of the SE Asian travel market.

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