While there has been no shortage of perfect weather and ideal beach space on Hayman Island, one thing missing for the last six months were guests at its resort.
That all changed on Tuesday, as the first visitors took a look around the One&Only Hayman Island resort following an $80 million facelift.
A new pool wing and restaurants have been built, however the number of suites at the resort has been reduced from 209 to 160.
The suites range from a $735 a night one-bedroom option to the “Three Bedroom Owners Penthouse”. Coming in at about $10,000 a night, it can fit six people and includes three bathrooms, a kitchenette, bar, wrap around balcony and an on-call butler.
Hayman Island is owned by Malaysian conglomerate Mulpha but since September the resort has been managed by Kerzner International, whose One&Only stable includes hotels in Mexico, the Bahamas and Dubai.
Hayman was acquired by Reg Ansett in 1947 and he created the luxury resort three years later, before Mulpha took over the island in 2004.
One&Only Resorts chief executive Mark DeCocinis said hype about the re-opening had been boosted by US sitcom Modern Family filming part of an Australian special at the resort this year.
“Almost 90 percent of our business comes from Australia and we really think with the One&Only brand that we will attract much more international visitors,” he said.
“I really believe we will really help tourism in Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.”
Already the take-up has been strong, Mr DeCocinis said, with a 60 per cent occupancy rate for Tuesday night and four-day sellout periods in July, August and September.
With about 400 staff, the Hayman resort is one of several luxury options for Whitsundays travellers, but Mr DeCocinis said beating the competition wasn’t something One&Only was focusing on.
“To have more luxury resorts is great for Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef and we always welcome that,” he said.
“I believe that we compete with ourselves. At the end of the day the guests will decide for themselves.”
The reopening of the resort coincided with the return of direct Qantas flights from Sydney to the Whitsunday Islands, signalling renewed confidence for tourism to the cyclone and dollar-battered region.
Ending a ten-year hiatus on the route, the Boeing 737-800 jet touched down at Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamiliton Island at 11.25am carrying tourism bosses, civic leaders and politicians.
Speaking to guests at the airport launch, Queensland Parliament Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan said the Queensland government had ambitions of doubling overnight visitor numbers across the state by 2020.
"There have been many trials and tribulations for tourism in this region in recent times with the GFC, the fluctuating dollar and the devastation of cyclone Yasi, but today's flight officially marks the start of the renaissance of Whitsunday tourism," Costigan said.
"If we don't have airplanes coming from southern ports we are doomed. That's why seeing the Flying Kangaroo back on the runway today is so important.
Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi said it was hoped the new flights would bring an extra 10,000 visitors to the islands each year. It's hoped the flights will boost the number American visitors as well as local holidaymakers.
Mr Strambi said the airline saw the opportunity to work with the owners of Hayman Island's new luxury One & Only resort.
"With the resurgence of the region since Yasi, we saw a premium airline opportunity. It was the right time," Strambi said.
"Sydney is the gateway to Australia for millions of Qantas passengers eveyr year. These passengers acan now enjoy direct access to one of the country's most iconic holiday destinations."
The flights will operate three times a week in peak seasons of July and September to January, with twice weekly services on Wednesday and Sunday off peak.
Angie Kelly travelled as a guest of Qantas.