Saturday, 15 August 2009

Turtle Cove gay resort sold

After 16 years Turtle Cove resort, on just over half a hectare of beachfront between Cairns and Port Douglas, has been sold.

The owners, Turtle Creek Pty Ltd, was a collection of five business men from Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney, including Cairns Doctor David Bradford, who sold his share in 2005. His partner Michael Williams was a manager at the property.

In April, Turtle Cove was passed in at auction for $3.5 million, well under the asking price, reputedly once to be valued around $15 million. Only two telephone bidders took part in the proposed sale.

The advertising blurb read:
  • "Great in ground pool, restaurant and bar overlooking a sandy beach. Most rooms are about 10 years old and in good condition.

    Surrounded on four sides by National Park, this is an outstanding operating property in good condition, ideal for family operation."
The former Douglas Shire Council had granted development approval for a swimming pool, tennis court, six townhouses and a caretaker's residence.

In 2005, the former owners attempted to open up their share and market the resort to anyone, ceasing to advertise exclusively to the gay and lesbian market, however it failed to turn the business around, and confused those that were booking.

Mark Proffit of Rainbow Tourism says that the resort lost the gay market due to overpricing.

"Discounted prices to attract travellers, which ultimately means less is invested back into the resort," Mark Profitt says. "There are newer properties in Port Douglas and Cairns which visitors are choosing."

"All of Cairns tourism is suffering but i think the location has worked against them [Turtle Cove] and they stopped reinventing themselves. They certainly didn't reinvest back into the market," Proffit says.

The resort has not been renovated for a long time, and is run down compared to what it used to be like. Rates have plummeted over the last year from $280 to $99 in an attempt to gain more reservations. An $88 special is now offered for past guests, including breakfast.

The new owner, a Melbourne-based investor, has cleaned the website up and taken off all reference to "gay and lesbian resort", and move expected to attract more customers:

  • TURTLE COVE RESORT AND SPA is one of the best known and most popular gay resorts in the world...

now reads...
  • TURTLE COVE RESORT & SPA has become one of the best known and most popular destination resorts in the world.

What an amazing claim to make.

  • Turtle Cove Resort & Spa welcomes gay & lesbian visitors and their totally friendly friends.

now reads...

  • Turtle Cove Resort & Spa welcomes visitors and guests to the resort for short or long term stays. Day visits, for both locals and visitors alike, are also encouraged. The Bar and Restaurant together with all resort facilities are open to the public seven days a week.
Tony McGrath listed the property for sale at $4.5 million.

Once lauded as one of the world's top gay resorts, it's now needs a substantial make-over in order to compete with beachfront locations like the Kewarra Beach resort and Thala Beach near Port Douglas.

Some guests has been far from impressed about the condition of the property, that was once a favourite with weekend locals.

"This resort was okay two years ago when I first visited, but you can tell that the owners are very over it and trying to sell it," Nukiwi of Sydney wrote on TripAdvisor.

"They have bare-bones staffing, including only one person in the kitchen at night. The whole atmosphere screams save money. The public spaces are filthy, contributing to the gloom. The physical location, is great, right on a private tropical beach. But the whole place needs a big scrub and clean-up. I can't recommend this place to the discerning gay traveller. Stay somewhere else."

Turtle Cove originally housed accommodation for Christopher Skase's workers in the construction of Port Douglas' Sheraton Mirage. The property subsequently became backpacker accommodation. The owner couple toyed with the idea of turning it into a gay hotel, but the husband wasn't keen, and sold which became a well-known gay holiday destination in 1993. The story goes that the wife returned three years later with her new girlfriend.

Some things are not as straight as they seem.


angelo said...

who cares?

fnq visitor said...

was there last week and things have definatly changed. i can see this place returning to its former glory in the near future.