Syrian billionaire ploughs millions into Australia's tourism

SYDNEY -- A Syrian-born billionaire developer, who has already ploughed in millions of dollars into two tourism-related investments in Australia, is currently on the outlook for his third purchase, News Corp reported on Tuesday.

Ghassan Aboud, a Dubai-based Syrian billionaire, who bought the Rydges Tradewinds hotel for 34 million Australian dollars (26 million U.S. dollars) through his company GA Group Australia in March, expects to turn the property into a five-star accommodation by mid-2018.

Cairns-based Prime Group company director Andy Taylor said that he has met with reps from GA Group including its owner Aboud to discuss on how the Tradewinds hotel development would look like in two years time and expects to start working on the project in February.

"We're very pleased to be a part of this project, which will be a massive driver for the local economy," Taylor said.

The existing hotel is set to undergo a major overhaul while a 12-storey apartment building being built on an adjoining site, to be known as 141 Esplanade.

Taylor said the new construction phase could generate up to 250 new jobs in Cairns.

In the meantime, the GA Group purchased a 4,000-square metre vacant block at the corner of Aplin and Lake Streets in Cairns for an undisclosed amount, which will be turned into a 200-room hotel with preliminary designs already underway and the purchase contract expected to be settled in coming days.

It was also reported that the colourful billionaire was on the lookout for his third purchase in Cairns, media reports said without elaborating further.

Aboud, 49, had earlier told News Corp on Monday that the weather, the rain forest and the Great Barrier Reef was what attracted him to the city in the first place.

"I think in five to seven years, you will see a whole new Cairns," Aboud said.

"We hope we will cooperate and make something good for this city."

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Alex de Waal had told News Corp that the investments by GA Group Australia would help the city meet growing demand for luxury hotel rooms.

"These are independent investors that bring their own flavor and dynamics to the marketplace ... that's very healthy for tourism," de Waal said.

[ Editor: zyq ]


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