Bean ball for Council
Saturday, 18th June, 2011
Moving Broken Hill’s tourism hub away from the Visitor Information Centre’s present location has been branded as foolish by leading New South Wales tourism industry expert and television identity Mike Whitney.
Whitney, host of Channel 7’s highly successful NSW tourism-focused “Sydney Weekender” television program believes City Council would be “taking a backward step” if it deserted the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) located at the corner of Blende and Bromide Streets.
“When I first heard the news I thought; you have got to be joking,” Whitney said.
“I’ve been told that the centre is losing money and council is considering its options, but to me it doesn’t make sense to move away from that purpose built facility.
“Even if it was going to cut costs and save money, my advice to council would still be don’t do it.
“I’d be more inclined to continue with the present location and look at ways of making it more profitable,” Mr Whitney added.
The former Test cricketer, who has carved a fine reputation as a television host for the best part of the last 20 years, has made numerous tourism-related visits to Broken Hill and says the VIC is a wonderful asset.
“I was in the Silver City just last month and spent time at the information centre,” Whitney said.
“It is not just the building - with its perfect facilities for coaches, campervans and caravans - but the wonderful staff at the place who need to be retained by the council.
“People like (City Council tourism officer) Corey Spiteri do a fantastic job promoting Broken Hill and I’d hate to see them shifted down to the main street and not be able to help as many tourists as they now do,” Whitney continued.
“Let’s face it, tourism groups like the grey nomads want to be able to park their vans and walk into the tourism hub - not fight with main street traffic for parking and then have to walk hundreds of metres to get information.
“That would only lead to less people turning up and then tourism - which is now the life blood of the far west - would be going backwards,” he added.
Whitney has been reporting on tourism throughout New South Wales since 1995 and says many of the destinations he visits “would kill” for a facility such as the VIC.
He said the challenge facing City Council was to find ways of making the tourism hub more efficient.
“Let’s add to it - find more uses for it and that would generate even more tourism for the city and the outback,” he said.
“If the council needs to raise money to do that, then count me in. I’ll come back to Broken Hill free of charge for a fund raising event to help bring in some dollars to help out.”
A love of Broken Hill and the outback prompted Whitney to return to the city last month to produce the special 700th edition of “Sydney Weekender”.
“My producer said it was up to me to pick a special place in New South Wales to celebrate the 700th show and I immediately thought of Broken Hill,” Whitney said.
“I can’t say it is the best place I’ve been because I’ve also been able to enjoy spots such as Kosciuszko National Park, Armidale and the rain forest areas around Coffs Harbor, but Broken Hill is definitely grand final material ... its right up there.
“I love coming there not only because of the landscape and the history, but it’s the people as well.
“Bush people are so welcoming, generous and friendly and I want to encourage as many tourists as I can to get out there and enjoy the joint. It has a wow factor that people need to have a look at.”
The special 700th anniversary edition of “Sydney Weekender” - which unfortunately won’t be seen on BKN7 in Broken Hill - goes to air at 5.30pm this evening throughout most of NSW.
Award winning local tour operators Michael and Joanne McCulkin of Tri-State Safaris escorted Whitney from the city north to Cameron Corner on an adventure that Whitney found exhilarating.
“I know Mick and Jo have won many national and state awards, but let me tell you, Tri-State Safaris is world class ... I doubt you could find a better tour operator anywhere,” Whitney enthused.
“I have never met operators more organized, more professional or more knowledgeable than Mick and Jo.”