Annabel Bowles

Tropic Now journalist

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New Esplanade hotel signals faith in Cairns tourism

The Oaks Cairns Hotel, set to open on September 15, is projected to be a vital addition to Cairns’ recovering tourism scene. 

The five-storey, 76-room development signals the major hotel operator’s faith in the future of Cairns tourism.

It comes just after the Queensland Government’s announcement this morning to commit $11.3 million to boost tourism in the region. 

The multi-million-dollar package will fund shovel-ready projects at attractions such as Paronella Park, Wildlife Habit and the Undara Experience, plus support major events and reef boat operators.

The Oaks Cairns Hotel is well-located on 59 Cairns Esplanade with panoramic views of the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon and the Coral Sea.

Local group Esplanade Central Pty Ltd is leasing the $12 million development to Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites, an industry leader in modern residential-style accommodation with 27 other hotels in Queensland. 

Chief Operating Officer of Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites Craig Hooley said the company is anticipating the return of high tourist numbers to Cairns.

“It has been a challenging year for the tourism industry with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting all hotels nationally. (We are) thrilled to see Oaks continue to move forward ... offering a premium accommodation option from which to explore the region,” Mr Hooley said.

Director of Kelly Development Services and expert in North Queensland development projects Paul Kelly agreed the hotel was a significant but essential venture for Cairns. 

“New boutique hotel stock is a necessity for Cairns to reflect the changing needs of travellers and capitalise infrastructure and improvements taking place along the Cairns waterfront,” he said.

“Converting a former commercial and retail space was an effective use of the site, and with Oaks’ well-known brand in the region it was a perfect fit."

The hotel will feature a rooftop restaurant, Oak & Vine; a space for à la carte breakfast, light lunch and a lively cocktail bar serving Peruvian share plates and modern Australian favourites.

It will join Oaks Port Douglas Resort in the tropical north and the newly-opened Oaks Toowoomba Hotel, as well as more than 50 properties in Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tourism Minister Kate Jones were in Cairns this morning to make the funding announcement. 

Ms Jones said four TNQ tourism projects will receive more than a quarter of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery $25 million Growing Tourism Infrastructure fund.

“The pandemic has hit the state’s tourism industry hard but the government is carefully lifting restrictions to allow for intrastate travel for Queenslanders and opening up to other travellers when possible.

“The government is partnering with these project proponents to deliver new tourism infrastructure and experiences that will boost the region’s economy.

“These projects are estimated to support 127 construction jobs and collectively generate 56 ongoing roles.”

This morning’s announcement follows an initial $3.8 million investment in February, designed to support local businesses amid the onset of COVID-19.