Star Entertainment boss Matt Bekier says tourism is in the midst of an “arms race” and that his company is investing $5 billion over the next few years to ensure it doesn’t get left behind.
He says that Star’s war chest will not be invested in more gaming facilities – still the bedrock of its revenue with 80%+ share – but in tourism infrastructure.
“Sticking another slot machine in the floor isn’t going to make a difference,” Mr Bekier told delegates at the No Vacancy conference.
“That difference has to happen through food and beverage and accommodation.”
Mr Bekier also convincingly put the argument that tourism may be the next mining boom in terms of economic impact on Australia.
But he says there are very different despite the fact that China is driving tourism demand just as it did the appetite for commodities.
“The difference between a mining boom and a tourism boom is that tourism customers are looking for bespoke experiences, not a commodity,” he says.
He also believes that a tourism is a far more sustainable industry than mining, characterised as its by spectacular highs and lows.
“I think we are looking at something more fundamental right now,” Mr Bekier said.
“Will it always be the Chinese?”
Probably not, he said, although the Chinese tourism waves could last for decades.
But if Chinese tourism slows he said other nascent markets like India will be there to pick up the slack.
Mr Bekier and Star are doubling down on tourism, spending $3bn on the new Queen’s Wharf development in Brisbane, $850m transforming Jupiter’s on the Gold Coast and a further $1bn expanding its flagship Sydney holding.