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Tourism needs teamwork

Friday, 3rd January, 2014

Tourism operator Michael McCulkin Tourism operator Michael McCulkin

By Andrew Robertson

An award-winning tourism operator has taken a shot at some councillors “who seem to think there isn’t much of a future in tourism”.

Mick McCulkin, who runs Tri State safaris, also said businesses needed to start putting their hand in their own pocket instead of relying on others to promote the city.

His comments come as Council figures showed there was a 30 per cent drop in foot traffic through the Visitors Information Centre in October, compared to the previous year.

Souvenir sales were also down more than 40 per cent, as was online traffic at Council’s new tourism website which has come in for criticism since its launch in late 2012.

The results have prompted some councillors to blame Council for presiding over an “ongoing downturn in tourism figures”.  

Speaking at Council’s December ordinary meeting, Clr Peter Black described the state of tourism in Broken Hill as “truly horrific”, and labelled

Council’s latest destination marketing campaign as a failure.  

The former state MP and mayor said it was time to “kick-start tourism yet again”.

But Mr McCulkin said outside influences, not the council, were largely responsible for a decline in visits to the region last year.

These included the high Australian dollar, which kept international visitors away and drew more Australians overseas, and a soft economy.

“International visitor numbers were down and those that did travel did not stay as long or spend as much,” he said.  

Even the federal election was a contributor, according to Mr McCulkin, who said people always stopped spending whenever a poll was called.

“Certainly tourism was way down in the region for 2013, as it was right across Australia.”

He said the three years before 2012 were also exceptional, due mainly to good rainfall that saw people flock to the region to see wild flowers and a filled Lake Eyre.  

“While 2013 wasn’t a good year I think people unfairly compared it to the previous three years which were bumper years ...”

Mr McCulkin said while he didn’t think the “Discover a Lost World” campaign was the right way to go, he said Council had shown a lot of leadership when it came to tourism.

But he could not say the same for some councillors who were talking down the industry.  

“I have some grave concerns about some of the current council members who seem to think there isn’t much of a future in tourism...

“Every councillor’s focus should be sustainability.”

He also called for more businesses to contribute towards the promotion of the city and region, particularly those that relied on tourism for survival.

“Everyone wants to jump on the back of tourism but no one wants to get involved.

“I think people need to look in the mirror and say ‘what have I done?’.”

He said while not every business owner could be on a tourism committee or taskforce, they could all contribute financially to promote the region.

The city could then seek a dollar-for-dollar funding commitment from the state government to run a marketing campaign.

“If we’ve got 100 businesses that want to chip in $100 or $200 for a campaign it soon adds up.

“It’s not just about how much funding we get for marketing, it’s how wisely we spend it.”

Mr McCulkin said early indications were that 2014 was going to be a better year for tourism but warned “we’ve got to make it happen”.

“We’re without a doubt ... a destination that is unique so we’ve got a lot going for us.”

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