Resort says poor visitor numbers will increase

HOLIDAY makers deserted Palmer's Coolum Resort as a Christmas destination, with sources putting occupancy at just 14% last night and 6% for the next week.

But management insists their billionaire boss is there for the long haul.

Bookings for a round of golf on the resort's PGA Championship course were in single figures on Friday, although blisteringly hot conditions and strong winds may have been partly responsible for that.

Down the road, Novotel Twin Waters is running at 95% occupancy during what has been a boom time for most Sunshine Coast accommodation houses.

The awful start to 2013 comes a month after resort owner Clive Palmer announced a profit for November, the first since he purchased the property more than 12 months ago.

Mr Palmer took on the Hyatt hotel management group in the Brisbane Supreme Court in March last year after it tried to block his bid to sack the company for the completion of a 30-year contract it held.

The matter eventually was settled out of court on March 30 for an undisclosed amount.

Mr Palmer paid $500 bonuses to long-serving employees who he described as the heart of the resort, but months later drove a regime of forced redundancies, slashing the resort's 650 workforce.

General manager Bill Schott said "things are in place to get this running as a business".

"That was not there before when a hotel management group ran it at a $600 million loss," Mr Schott said.

"Clive had a threshold decision to make when he first bought it.

"He was advised to shut it down and start again. But he said he would do it the hard way.

"It's a terrific destination and we are creating good reasons to come here.

"The place was under-sold previously. He will take it to where it belongs in terms of a premium product.

"We are charging accordingly and that may have an effect on occupancy.''

Mr Schott said a dispute with time-share owners, which is still before the courts, had locked up 27% (80 rooms) of the 324-room resort.

The 350 quarter-share time-share owners had represented a sizeable portion of the resort's customers.

"We haven't kissed and made up yet,'' Mr Schott said.

"Even so, we've got new business and that's our objective. We're heading down the right track.

"It is a factor we hope to have resolved sooner than later. But the property was 25 years under one form of business. Changes new owners need to make sometimes can be achieved quickly and other times take a bit longer.

"That's just the nature of commercial disputes.

"As a form of ownership time-share is fantastic for the lifestyle experience, but financially it is never really rewarding as property ownership.

"I'm confident the dispute will be resolved and every one will be happy.''

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