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The tourism industry has always liked big ideas. Last century that meant we ended up with the Big Pineapple and Maleny’s Big Cow, which is an udder story altogether.

The planned regeneration of the Big Pineapple venue will be welcomed by everyone, but what the tourism industry really needs more are BIG ideas and aspirations – and that’s what Steve Irwin delivered in buckets.

He was rightfully granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last week, and the beauty is that the star will continue to glow over the Sunshine Coast for decades to come.

Australia Zoo gives the Sunshine Coast a unique profile in the American market, and it also captures our region’s points of difference with other coastal destinations in Australia.

Australia Zoo has always been more about conservation and the environment than it has been about entertainment and the Zoo’s location amidst the remarkable natural setting of the Glass House Mountains leads most visitors to walk away with a real appreciation of the power and beauty of nature.

The statistics suggest the Americans have fallen in love with the Irwins and can’t get enough of their home, firstly through Steve and more recently through Bindi’s epic success on America’s Dancing with the Stars.

The figures speak for themselves: in 2012, the Sunshine Coast was attracting 71,000 room nights annually from USA market worth $5.5 million, but by the end of 2017 that had grown to 190,000 room nights, generating $15.6 million in income for local operators. And Americans stay for over 20 nights on average, sharing their love and dollars across the region.

But of course, we need to continually refresh our message, so accompanying Steve’s Hollywood honour we have launched a major campaign in the US market with partners Goway, Australia Zoo, and Tourism Events Queensland to inspire and update American travel agents about the Sunshine Coast. The promotion will culminate with six US agents coming to the Sunshine Coast later to experience the destination and report back home that the Irwins and all our operators are ready to welcome them with open arms.

Steve, Terri, Bindi and Robert – we think you’re worth not just one star, but five stars!

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