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Patricia O’Callaghan

Patricia O'Callaghan (image supplied)
Patricia O'Callaghan (image supplied)

If you weren’t aware, it’s World Tourism Day on Monday 27th September 2021. And whilst the Gold Coast would typically be packed with both international and domestic school holiday tourists this time of year, it is still our home, and we can all still very much serve as a tourist mecca for the local market in these current times. Ahead of the day, we spoke to Destination Gold Coast CEO, Patricia O’Callaghan about what a usual day-in-the-life for her is, and what exciting things the Gold Coast has in store for both tourists and locals!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I think most people would still class me as a newbie to the Gold Coast having relocated from Townsville with my family earlier this year to take the role of CEO at Destination Gold Coast. I had been working at Townsville Enterprise for the past nine years where I started as the General Manager for Tourism and Events and then was the CEO for the past five years. I knew the Gold Coast was hurting after bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role would be tough, but at the same time I found myself excited about the opportunities ahead. Six months on, I could not be prouder to call this city my home.

Aerial of Miami beach at sunset with Surfers Paradise skyline as a backdrop (image supplied by Destination Gold Coast)
Aerial of Miami beach at sunset with Surfers Paradise skyline as a backdrop (image supplied by Destination Gold Coast)

What does a typical day of being Destination Gold Coast’s CEO look like?
Every day is literally an adventure. In the morning I could be on our Broadwater with Paradise Jet Boating and then by morning tea I am at Burleigh Headland with Jellurgal Aboriginal and Cultural Centre learning about our 60,000 year-old ancient history and then that evening I am launching a new marketing campaign atop of Rydges Gold Coast Airport. I am very honoured to have such an amazing role and know at the moment our industry is really hurting, so we are all working really hard to not just support them but to ensure their message is being heard by Government.

Whilst I’ve loved getting to know my new hometown, there’s been some heartbreaking moments as well. It’s obviously been an extremely tough time for the local tourism industry. Our operators are struggling due to the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, having lost $3.2 billion of tourism revenue and 1 in 5 tourism jobs over the past 18 months. COVID has hurt the heart and soul of the Gold Coast, but it won’t hold us down and despite these ongoing hardships, we continue to push through and the future is still really bright.

What do you love the most about the Gold Coast?
Where do I start! If I’m not hanging out with our industry during work, I’m making the most of every weekend to organise itineraries with the family. Whether it’s family fun, a date night or a staycation to experience the Gold Coast from all different angles, I love to spend every waking minute being a tourist in my new hometown. What surprised me most when I moved here is our surreal Australian landscapes being so close in proximity. The fact you can take a dip in the ocean at Surfers Paradise and hit the road for 45-minutes and immerse yourself in ancient rainforest is very cool.

Wonder Reef Concept (image courtesy of City of Gold Coast)
Wonder Reef Concept (image courtesy of City of Gold Coast)

With the Wonder Reef due to open early 2022, how do you think this new attraction will assist the Gold Coast Tourism industry?
The Wonder Reef will add a new layer of attraction to the city and we’re proud to support the City of Gold Coast’s vision which will see us home to Australia’s first floating dive site. This is another product that will support the visitor economy and help us cut through a very crowded market as people travel again.

What are you most looking forward to, for the Gold Coast, over the next year?
Opening up again! Whilst the next 10 years is shaping up to be a decade of opportunity for our region, the next 12 months will be integral in capitalising on this opportunity. The 2032 Olympics in Brisbane will bring global attention and visitors from all over the world to Queensland and we know there will be a significant benefit for the Gold Coast beyond the games themselves. As the world opens again, tourism will bounce back in a big way, and we know there are massive amounts of pent-up demand we can capitalise on. And as Australia reaches vaccination targets, borders open again and consumer confidence returns – all those postponed and cancelled holidays will finally come to fruition.

How do you suggest people celebrate World Tourism Day?
Back a tourism operator and invest in a local business that has been doing it tough. Gold Coasters have been phenomenal in supporting local tourism businesses and we still really need them whilst we wait for things to open again. Maybe buy an early Christmas present for someone, head to a theme park, jump on a paddleboard, or take that hot air balloon ride you have always been thinking about. It’s time to adventure! The Play Money Rewards campaign that the City of Gold Coast is investing into makes this easy, so jump onto destinationgoldcoast.com and grab a voucher today!

Patricia O'Callaghan (image supplied)

What are your Gold Coast favourites…
Café: Baritalia – This is an all-day dining option with beautiful coffee and Italian food which is really authentic and yummy
Coffee spot: Anywhere along the Coolangatta foreshore – I love the viewpoint from Coolangatta Surf Club and The Coffee Club
Restaurant: A tie between Nineteen at The Star and The Tropic at the Burleigh Pavilion
Bar or pub for a drink: Southport Yacht Club (especially on a Sunday afternoon – live music is always fun and a great way to start the week)
Weekend tradition: Visiting the Fisherman’s Co-op on a Saturday to pick up our local seafood – you can’t beat the prawns, they are sensational
Hinterland: The Polish Place – spectacular cabins with wood fires and the Pork Hock in the restaurant is a must try!

How do you choose to spend your weekends?
In between my son’s sports and house hunting, my family and I love being outdoors and a passion of mine is chasing sunsets. We are either at the HOTA markets on a Sunday getting a Largo or having a Milkman’s cookie, creek swimming at Currumbin or Tallebudgera Creek and heading to a Surf Club for lunch, or finding a nice spot to watch the sunset (whilst eating of course).

Gold Coast Dive Attraction (image courtesy of City of Gold Coast)
Gold Coast Dive Attraction (image courtesy of City of Gold Coast)

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