Well, yes, it did. The number of tourists dropped sharply in Surfers Paradise and the streets started losing the buzz several years before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2000, the year I came to Australia, there were souvenir shops wherever you went in Surfers Paradise, and there were even 2 big duty-free stores. There were a lot of Japanese restaurants and restaurants catering to tourists, and the duty-free stores and souvenir shops were open till late, so there were a lot of people out and about even at night. Then the number of Japanese tourists rapidly fell due to the economic downturn in Japan, depreciation of the yen, and high Australian prices. Then in their place, Chinese and Arabian tourists started becoming more prominent. The duty-free stores closed, and the situation got so that the stores trading on business from Japanese tourists were also forced to close. I used to work for a Japanese travel company, and tourist customers from Japan often told me “Prices are high in Australia, so choosing souvenirs is really hard.” And a lot of them used to say in surprise, “It really is small isn’t it!” after they had been for a walk around town.
Having only 1 or 2 souvenir shops in town makes it pretty hard to find souvenirs, and it decreases the appetite for shopping. It was handier to go and shop at Pacific Fair, a shopping center in a neighboring suburb, said to be the largest in the southern hemisphere, so shopping in Surfers Paradise dwindled. Then the souvenir shops aimed at Chinese tourists started closing one after the other, and “For Lease” signs appeared in the shops along the once bustling main street.
And that wasn’t just in the daytime, night times too were quiet and still.
In the past, once Friday night came, the streets were filled with people going from one nightclub to the next, they were packed full, and there were long queues at the entrances to clubs. Then the largest nightclub, Melbas, finally closed, which was followed by a string of other nightclub closures. Nowadays youngsters don’t go to Surfers Paradise, they go to nightclubs and bars in Broad Beach or Miami. It’s now so very quiet in Surfers Paradise that you just wouldn’t believe it used to be so crowded on weekend nights.
I go to Surfers Paradise on errands, but the streets are deserted, you can see homeless people there now, presenting sights I had never seen there before. Having worked in Surfers Paradise for about 14 years, it’s pretty sad to see things turning out there like that. I wonder if the buzz it used to have back then will ever come back.
But, even having gone through such a downturn, Surfers Paradise is gradually starting to regain its buzz. There is a night market twice a week along the beachfront, fancy cafes and restaurants are opening up along the beachfront, and now more and more shops are opening for all tourists, both Australian and overseas, rather than just overseas tourists. The numbers of tourists from other parts of Australia are starting to increase, and you can see lots of families in the summer and spring holidays.
All the same, it still doesn’t quite have the buzz it once had, I get the feeling it’s recovering bit by bit. Surfers Paradise still has the beautiful beach with clear blue waters and white singing sand, the same as before, and you can see it stretching left and right in front of the town center. As long as it has its beautiful beach, I believe lots of people will visit…
A pedestrian mall in Surfers Paradise
The Believe It or Not! tourist attraction has had a makeover.
I have lived on the Gold Coast for 22 years but never been here. ^^;
I haven’t been here in a long time and in the meantime this attraction has popped up.
It seems to be a virtual reality kind of attraction where you put on hologram glasses that make it look like there are real dinosaurs right in front of you, you can feed them, and you can even have an “underwater" experience.