SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia has hailed the decision to award the 2018 Commonwealth Games to the Gold Coast as a major economic boost to the subtropical beachside region of Queensland.

Favourites to win the vote to host the 21st Games for mostly former British colonies, the bid delivered early on Saturday morning local time with a 43-27 victory over the Sri Lankan city of Hambantota.

The decision by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) general assembly in St Kitts and Nevis ensured the Gold Coast would follow Sydney in 1938, Perth (1962), Brisbane (1982) and Melbourne (2006) as the fifth Australian hosts of the Games.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard, speaking on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii, called it a fantastic achievement.

All Australians will be looking forward to hosting the Commonwealth Games, but this is going to be a particular delight for the people of the Gold Coast and the people of Queensland, she said.

This is also a great opportunity economically for the Gold Coast.

Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said winning the bid could be worth up to $2 billion in economic benefits to the area and see as many as 30,000 full time jobs created over the next decade.

These Games will bring superb tourism opportunities for the Gold Coast and for Queensland, she said in a news release. The Games will also act as a catalyst to fast track infrastructure development.

We have made a promise to the Commonwealth Games Federation and will deliver on this promise.

Hosting the Games will also be a boost to Australian athletes, albeit an unnecessary one for a country that has long dominated the medals table at the Games.

Australia will ... be looking forward to a home advantage and repeating its most successful Games performance in the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games where we won a record 221 medals, said Sports Minister Mark Arbib.

Bid chairman Mark Stockwell, well aware of the public relations disaster that blighted the run-up to last year's Games in Delhi, said winning the right to host the Games was just the start of the effort.

A lot of very hard work went into the bid but it doesn't stop there -- we need to put the same amount of energy and passion in to prepare and deliver the very best event the Commonwealth has ever known, he said.

Congratulations Gold Coast - let the Games preparations begin. (Additional reporting by Morag MacKinnon, Editing by Peter Rutherford)