Beautiful one day, Bitcoin the next: You can now travel by cryptocurrency in Queensland
It’s the southern launch pad for the Great Barrier Reef, now the Gladstone, Capricorn and Bundaberg regions are taking the plunge and spearheading cryptocurrency tourism in Queensland and around the world.
One of the world’s most renowned tourism icons is dabbling in one of the planet’s least understood currencies. Operators along the Southern Great Barrier Reef are diving into the mysterious waters of cryptocurrency, breathing fresh air into the way in which Australian tourism businesses and regions operate.
TravelbyBit, a Queensland-based Australian company, has penned deals around the nation to enable cryptocurrency point-of-sale systems that accept Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dash, Ether and XEM. Cryptocurrency is most widely explained as “electronic peer-to-peer currencies” which don’t physically exist. The Queensland Government has jumped on board, injecting a reported $100,000 to enable cryptocurrency payment terminals around the state.
And Southern Great Barrier Reef operators are embracing this cryptic currency with gusto. Shrugging off its sleepy seaside reputation, Seventeen Seventy/Agnes Water in the Gladstone region has become Australia’s first digital destination with a number of businesses already operating in this new realm.
Leisa Trickett, owner of Café Discovery at Agnes Water, enables tourists to use cryptocurrency to buy the likes of coffees and meals from her café menu, on which she is even considering featuring a “crypto coffee”.
“When it was first floated, my reaction was that it was never going to happen in Agnes Water. Now everyone is on board with it and it’s been really cool,” Trickett says.
“It is as easy to use as Visa but it is better for a business as there are no fees included. It’s just an App on your point-of-sale and the tourist uses their QR code and the payment just goes straight through.
“It hasn’t only put us on the map in Australia, but it’s put us on the world map. Why Agnes Water? Why not. We’ve only got 1800 people so you have a microcosm of the tourist industry and it is a very do-able thing.”
1770 LARC! Tours Marketing Manager Amber Rodgers says while they have made less than 50 cryptocurrency transactions since its June inception, she believes at least half of those tourists would not have chosen the destination had they not offered the digital form of payment.
It’s an interesting twist which suggests cyber-savvy tourists may choose Queensland destinations not so much on merit, but on where they can spend their cryptocurrency.
“We have the Great Barrier Reef on our doorstep but we don’t have the exposure of Cairns in the international marketplace,” Rodgers says.
“We are trying to be a business that is at the forefront of the industry and at 1770 LARC! Tours it is possible to pay digital currency in advance or on the day. It is a quicker process than traditional EFTPOS transactions.
“We definitely thought implementing it might give us a slight edge. I don’t think we are going to have the sole point of difference forever.”
Riding the Digital Currency Waves
Gladstone Area Development and Promotion Limited CEO Darryl Branthwaite says they are talking to Gladstone Airport in a bid to encourage them to adopt the new currency as well. Brisbane Airport became the first airport in the world to accept cryptocurrency in May with more than 30 retail and dining outlets at both domestic and international terminals now accepting cryptocurrency.
“It’s ground-breaking stuff. We want to give it a good crack,” he says.
“Captain Cook (the Town of 1770 is named after Cook’s landing here in 1770) opened up the East Coast. What we are doing is opening the East Coast up as an avenue for cryptocurrency across the world.”
Benefits for tourists visiting Queensland destinations and tourism operations which embrace cryptocurrency are currently being touted as:
- Less chance of money loss or theft
- No exchange rates or ATM fees
- Ease of booking
- Pre-paying for everything
- Lower risk of credit card fraud
- Your smartphone acts as your wallet
- No left-over foreign currency at the end of your trip
Further north along the Southern Great Barrier Reef, on the Capricorn Coast, an investment partnership between Blockchain and Tower Holdings is currently bidding for the rights to redevelop the resort on Great Keppel Island. If successful, they will not only use cryptocurrency to raise the initial $200 million needed to kick-start the billion-dollar development, but once completed, tourists who visit the island will also be able to use this alternative currency for payment. Investors would be able to buy tokens in the property with Tower Holdings retaining a 12 per cent share. The entire concept would be a world-first in tourism.
Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll says there are a number of interested parties – including crypto and traditional investors – in the development of Great Keppel Island Resort, which would include a 250-room hotel, 250-berth marina, retail precinct, 750 eco villas, and a realigned airstrip.
“It is very challenging to raise significant capital for a Great Barrier Reef Island resort. Because of the costs associated with developing something so significant, banks in this country won’t loan that sort of money for tourism resorts,” she says.
“The concept of using cryptocurrency, while it is left field and out-of-the-box, is very real. At least $1 billion has gone into the development of Blockchain technology over the past few years.
“The key point that everyone needs to understand is that the value of anything is what people are prepared to pay. Real cash changes hands to purchase cryptocurrency. It is no different to buying shares or property or things on Ebay.”
While the traditional tourist demographic for the Southern Great Barrier Reef is likely to be late adopters of new technology, Carroll stresses that when talking about Great Keppel Island, there are currently other resorts – such as Great Keppel Island Holiday Village and Great Keppel Island Hideaway – on the island offering a total of 300 beds and who have survived and thrived, long after the original Great Keppel Island Resort ceased to exist 10 years ago.
“If the cryptocurrency deal eventuates, we still have existing operators on the island that cater for our existing markets,” she says.
“The fear of the unknown is one thing, but who would have thought a few years ago you could have booked an Uber on your phone? This digital disruption happens so quickly. It raises all sorts of fascinating questions and it is forcing us not to ignore it.”
An announcement on the successful redevelopment bidder of Great Keppel Island Resort is expected to be made before Christmas.
“Based on the emerging interest and demand for it, it has to become a widely-accepted tool for payment,” Lakey says.
“With all the rising costs of running a tourism business, such as fuel, anything that limits costs but still attracts an international demographic has to be a plus.”
Back in Capricorn, Carroll says the only risk lays in digital sharks online who are masquerading as cryptocurrency traders, and warns tourists to ensure they are purchasing the real deal.
One thing is certain: The Southern Great Barrier Reef is now on the digital currency stage. And forget digital sharks, it’s the reef sharks and other marine wildlife found on the world’s largest living reef, that tourists will flock to see.