Australia to get its own Pebble Beach.
November 14, 2006 // IBM BLOG POST
Hamilton Island is undergoing its biggest transformation since it was a glint in Keith Williams’s eyes. More than $200 million is being pumped into the island by new owner Bob Oatley to broaden its appeal – with the addition of new facilities that will include Australia’s own Pebble Beach. It was in December 2003 that Oatley, a billionaire, won a hard-fought bidding war to capture Hamilton Island and now he’s pumping millions into the resort as he promised to do. So far the signs of the major overhaul aren’t all that obvious – such as an internal refit of the Reef View Hotel and an upgrade of some of the restaurants – but all that will change when he opens a new five-star resort within the island next year – complete with its own restaurants and retail precinct.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age can reveal this new resort within a resort will be called Pebble Beach. Just to keep the golfing theme going (Pebble Beach for those who don’t know is one of America’s most famous golf courses located in California), Oatley is also developing an 18-hole golf course on Dent Island. Dent Island is a few hundred metres across the water from Hamilton Island’s yacht club and will become the only island golf course in Australia. Golfers will reach it by a short five-minute boat ride from Hamilton. The course will be designed by Australian golfing legend Peter Thompson.
A new multi-million dollar yacht club on Hamilton Island – to be called the Great Barrier Reef Yacht Club – already has the foundations in the ground. It is a part of the redevelopment probably closest to Oatley’s heart, given his love of yacht racing. ”Our commitment is simply to create the most desirable island destination in the South Pacific for both Australian and international guests,” he said. ”We’ve always believed that quality product will be pursued and appreciated, and this is certainly the source of inspiration for the ongoing development of Hamilton Island.”
Oatley made his mark as a pioneer of Australia’s wine export industry. He sold his Rosemount winery to Southcorp in 2001 and, in 2005, sold his remaining 19 per cent stake in Southcorp for about $460 million to Foster’s. Hamilton Island was the brainchild of Keith Williams, who ensured the resort would become the gateway for the Whitsundays by building an airport on the island. The island fell into receivership in the mid-1990s before being bought by an investment bank looking for a long-term owner. Oatley had been a regular visitor to the island, competing in Hamilton’s famous Race Week, the largest offshore sailing race in Australia, so it wasn’t a surprise when he put in a bid for the resort.
Gavin Herholdt, the chief operating officer of Hamilton Island, says the new vision for the island is to create a more exclusive feel for visitors. ”Hamilton Island used to be all things to all people, so we had three-star accommodation and four-star and now five-star hotels. Now with the investment we hope to have the best three- and four-star hotels in the Whitsundays and have a luxury five-star resort on the island as well,” he said. The new resort on Hamilton Island – Pebble Beach – is due to open in August next year.
“We think the sailing waters around the Whitsundays are the best in the world and sailing is becoming a more popular pastime, specially among baby boomers now coming into retirement. We think that if you love boating and you have enough disposable income that at some point you’ll end up on Hamilton Island,” Mr Herholdt said. Hamilton’s property market has cooled in recent years along with the rest of the east coast of Australia, but the windows of the real-estate agents on the island are not flooded with auction notices. It seems most investors are holding onto stock ahead of the impact of Oatley’s investment in the resort.
Mr Herholdt said that, after the completion of Northpoint facility, other developments might be undertaken on Hamilton Island – but he says it won’t be overdone to ensure the balance between nature and tourism.
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