The Front Beach and beyond

When it comes to attractions that will induce people to turn off the highway and call into Bowen, you'd expect the Front Beach/ Bowen Foreshore redevelopment to figure fairly prominently in discussions.

After months of observation from outside the barriers it was a pleasant change to be able to include the jetty and Santa Barbara Parade in the morning walk. What's there now is a vast improvement on what was there before, and the redevelopment is going to play a significant part in local residents' recreational activities over the next few years.

On the other hand, at least in its present configuration, it's hardly likely to bring people in from the highway unless they arrive on the doorstep with a pre-existing motive for making the detour.

The Catalina/World War Two end of the development will probably attract the odd military history afficionado, and while the movie memorabilia behind the Sound Shell will attract its share of visitors those numbers won't be as large as they might have been if Australia had been an Oscar-winning smash hit.

The rest of the development is pretty classy, but in an environment where a similar development is de rigeur for any significant coastal centre the Front Beach is smaller than many (hardly surprising, given relative populations) and more or less on a par with most.

There will, of course, be a number of further developments in the area which will make it a more attractive proposition, but they're still probably going to attract local residents rather than out-of-town visitors.

Actually I suspect that spruiking the virtues of the Front Beach redevelopment is going to have less impact on visitor numbers than word-of-mouth through the grey nomad and backpacker communities,

That means, at least as far as I can see, that we're better off developing the recreational open space around town for use by local residents and visitors and relying on favourable impressions and the grapevine to boost visitor numbers.

For sure we'll be seeing developments going in beside the Front Beach, and there'll almost certainly be bars, restaurants and residential units in the mix.

Those places will need to rely on local support to pay the bills, and while out-of-towners will provide the icing on the cake unless they're attracting substantial local custom you're going to find the 'closing down' signs going up.

Of course, if there are a couple of decent eateries looking out over the bay they can expect to generate significant word-of-mouth action from people who have called in to check out the Front Beach and stopped for lunch or dinner.

Along with those who are prompted to make a detour by some well-designed and prominently places promotional material on the highway, of course.


 © Ian Hughes 2014