A huge tourism conglomerate has revealed details of a new multimillion-dollar floating tourist island and bid to snap up rival businesses after JobKeeper ends.
A huge tourism conglomerate has revealed details of a new multimillion-dollar floating tourist island and bid to snap up rival businesses after JobKeeper ends.

Artificial ‘island’ and buyouts: Tourism giant’s money move

Far North Queensland's biggest tourism conglomerate has revealed details of a new multimillion-dollar floating tourist "island" and opportunities to snap up rival businesses after JobKeeper ends.

Experience Co CEO John O'Sullivan has delivered the ASX-listed company's half-yearly results with a net loss of $200,000 to December 31 - but it could have been worse.

Losses caused by COVID-19 were offset by the $27 million sales of hot air ballooning operations and Cairns-based whitewater rafting firm Raging Thunder.

"We are pleased to have recommenced all core operations by the end of the first half, and more so, that we are a tourism business generating cashflow. Our business has seen resilient consumer demand, despite the pandemic and uncertainty of interstate borders," Mr O'Sullivan told shareholders.

Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

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Mr O'Sullivan opened up on Experience Co's biggest new venture - a $6.7 million floating pontoon called Dreamtime Island to be stationed at Moore Reef about 45km offshore from Cairns.

Construction is well under way ahead of the attraction's 2022 launch as an extension of the Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel indigenous sea ranger tours.

Experience Co CEO John O'Sullivan. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Experience Co CEO John O'Sullivan. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

The two-storey structure will have a purpose-built laboratory - the first of its kind on the Great Barrier Reef - and a floor-to-ceiling underwater observatory, all built at Cairns shipyards.

The State Government has tipped $3 million into the effort with Experience Co making up the $3.7m shortfall.

Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

"We remain grateful to governments at all levels for their financial and non-financial support and we look forward to continuing to work together as the industry emerges from the pandemic," Mr O'Sullivan said.

The pandemic has been testing but could throw open opportunities for Experience Co in terms of acquisitions.

Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Mr O'Sullivan said the company was always on the lookout for good buys, and that JobKeeper's end on March 28 might bring the chance to take over operations that have been surviving on government welfare.

"We are still very active in monitoring what's out there," he said.

Reading the tea leaves was difficult but Mr O'Sullivan shared estimates about a scenario where international travel stayed shut but domestic borders were all open.

Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Construction is well under way on Experience Co's new Dreamtime Island tourist pontoon to be stationed at Moore Reef from 2022. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

He predicted the skydive business could reach about 50 per cent of normal operations in Australia, but only 20 per cent in New Zealand. Reef operators could get up to the 40-50 per cent mark.

"That's not assuming any pick up, if you will, of people suddenly having pent-up demand for travel," he said.

"Those are very directional estimates, but they're sort of the trend lines that are starting to emerge."

Originally published as Artificial 'island' and buyouts: Tourism giant's money move



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