Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho will proceed with a $120 million apartment development on a golf course at the Gold Coast he has owned for 20 years, in acknowledgment of the city's huge tourism potential and rebounding property market.
Mr Ho, whose son Lawrence is in a Macau casino joint venture with James Packer, has seen the explosion of Asian-based developers buying sites on the glitter strip, with plans for residential and hotel developments over the next three years that will be worth about $3 billion.
Mr Ho's legal representative, Hickey Lawyers' Tony Hickey, said the Ho family was proceeding because of rapidly growing Chinese tourism to the Gold Coast, coupled with significant infrastructure expenditure, from transport to education, and the positive influence of hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
"The Ho family is proceeding with the development because they see it is the right time," Mr Hickey said. "There is an upturn in tourism, particularly from China, and the family is very attuned with the opportunities, especially from new aeroplane flights from Asia into the city."
International tourism numbers to the Gold Coast jumped 52,000 to 872,000 in the 12 months to September. Chinese tourists to Australia in 2015 reached 910,892, up nearly 20 per cent on 2014.
Carriers such as Hong Kong Airlines and Wuhan Airlines have started flying to the city and the demand for serviced apartments is growing rapidly. Chinese developers such as Wanda kicked off the investment with the $900 million Jewel apartments at Broadbeach, while China's Forise has been given approval to build a $1.2 billion, 88-level tower in the heart of Surfers Paradise, starting in January.
Colliers International's Darrell Irwin said the investment by Asia-backed developers had been driven by the growth in tourism.
"For them the Gold Coast is such a logical place – the clean air, the beaches and especially the low Australian dollar.
"I think these developers will also take the Gold Coast's accommodation to a whole new level. Some of the hotels here are a bit tired."
Undervalued property markets are also an allure.
SQM Research's Louis Christopher, who repeatedly predicted the boom in Sydney's house prices, is forecasting Gold Coast residential property prices to increase 11 per cent in 2016.
Mr Ho's new development, called Eleve Residences, at Palm Meadows Resort will include one-bedroom apartments priced from $279,900, two-bedroom units from $399,900 and three-bedroom configurations from $544,900.
Colliers International's Cameron Wilson said demand from overseas for such accommodation was growing.
"Direct flights from numerous locations in Asia has made Gold Coast a popular destination for international investors and visitors. While originally popular with the Japanese, demand for apartments has been most pronounced among Chinese nationals more recently."
Published by Matthew Cranston in AFR Weekend; Tuesday 22nd December 2015