noosaBack in the 80s and 90s, attracting tourists was plain sailing for Noosa but following the global financial crisis in 2008, this Sunshine Coast destination was forced to change tack. The result: a “new” Noosa with a brand new attitude. Christine Retschlag reports.

SHE’S long been the darling of Australia’s beach holiday destinations, seemingly able to click her manicured fingers and visitors would arrive at her beck and call. And for a long time, this certainly rang true for Noosa with its protected Main Beach, glorious resorts, Hastings Street shopping strip and beachfront dining galore. But the relative ease with which this Sunshine Coast destination attracted tourists also bred a certain arrogance, with some tourism operators content to rest on their laurels and deliver below par service, knowing the next luxury convertible full of holidaymakers was just around the corner.

This all changed in 2008 when the Global Financial Crisis hit the tourism industry like a tsunami. Overnight, holidays became valuable commodities and destinations such as Noosa, which were also hit with several summers of heavy rain and floods, were left shaken and stirred. But rather than consider the past seven years as bad luck, Noosa decided to take a good, hard look at itself and has reinvented itself as a role model for other destinations around the country.

More than two years ago, Tourism Noosa developed the Welcome to Noosa online customer service training program, aimed at revitalising customer service in Noosa. So successful is this initiative, that Tourism Noosa has since rolled it out to 1,700 tourism operators and the Queensland Department of Tourism has now acquired the intellectual property rights to be able to roll it out to other regions in the state.

Tourism Noosa general manager Steve McPharlin, who is also the Area Manager of Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas, describes the past seven years as “sobering” for the region.

“You struggle through and you look around and there are some good people that have got through to the end. We appreciate how terrible it was and are really grateful for how things have turned,” he says.

“There was a time in the last seven years when we had a lot of empty shop fronts and resorts and restaurants were closing down and not doing very well. Luckily we had a few businesses who chose to reinvest and start the ball rolling. It encouraged other businesses to say ‘times have been tough but we are on the way out of that now’ and to start putting a positive foot forward.

“We got some pretty damning feedback about our customer service so we designed Welcome to Noosa and that went a long way. More than ever, Noosa has something for everyone now.”

Tourism and Events Queensland CEO Leanne Coddington says Noosa provides a stylish coastal lifestyle and enviable year-round climate that appeals to travellers from around Australia and the world.

“Noosa has in recent years further enhanced its vibrant beachfront living, natural attractions, and retail and dining precincts in creating an ideal getaway for travellers,” she says.

Indeed, these days you’ll find a cooler Noosa, which has dropped its airs and graces. While the creators of Australian hit television show Kath and Kim would be relieved to know their Noosa snobs Prue and Trude still exist, you’re also bound to bump into the likes of Kath and Kim as well. There’s still plenty of style, as evidenced in Sri Lankan celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House at the Sheraton Noosa Resort, or the Noosa Boathouse along the Noosa River, but minus the toffy attitudes.

The same palates which are likely to feast at the absolute beachfront restaurant Seasons for breakfast, will be found a few hours later out at the earthy Eumundi Markets, haggling for a bargain. The same people who stay at the luxury Peppers Noosa Resort and Villas will be gladly indulging in the resort’s $5 Happy Hour…and bragging about it to their mates. And you’re just as likely to find someone on an ancient Noosa Ferry on their way to explore the rustic Noosa North Shore, as they are on a private boat ride to Sir Richard Branson’s private Makepeace Island.

Locals, too, are enjoying this laidback vibe and are more than happy to share their secret spots such as the casual bar Village Bicycle at Noosa Junction which, from time-to-time, offers Good Karma Kegs where patrons receive a beer in return for a donation which is shared with a good cause.

Back on Hastings Street, meet Clandestino Roasters awardwinning barista Al Claridge. “Kiwi Al” is likely to have just finished his morning surf when he turns up at this establishment which sells 6,000 coffees a week and is considered one of the best training organisations in Australia. Not that you’d know it from talking to Kiwi Al who confesses he’s just all about surfing, good coffee, and being happy.

And the same could be said about Noosa herself.

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