Thursday, 30th January, 2014
By Erica Visser
Can City Council afford to have a future in tourism? That was the question debated at last night’s monthly meeting.
Figures showed that bookings on Council’s new website were down over 80 per cent in December 2013, when compared to the year before.
Councillor Peter Black said that one local bed and breakfast business had told him it made $44,000 less in 2013, than in 2012.
Councillor Bob Algate called the city’s declining tourism industry “bloody frightening” and claimed Council was spending around $2 million on tourism annually.
But Mayor Wincen Cuy, who believed tourism was not Council’s responsibility, disputed the figure.
“There are three things you could do to reduce that figure Councillor Algate; you could close the Geo Centre, close the Art Gallery and close the Visitors Information Centre,” he said.
The comment was met with confusion but following the meeting Mayor Cuy told the BDT that the upkeep of these assets was included within Clr Algate’s figure.
“Clr Algate is actually including the upkeep of these assets within his tourism figure...I don’t think the Geo Centre or the Art Gallery should be put under the heading of tourism.”
However, Mayor Cuy could not rule out outsourcing or selling of the buildings during a restructure.
“I think that we have to look at every single thing Council operate and how we can effectively manage these in the future.”
Mayor Cuy refused to say whether he thought the assets should meet the same fate as Shorty O’Neil Village and the Broken Hill Caravan Park; the two items that had so far been reviewed.
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However, he did say make clear an insistence that tourism operators needed to “step up”.
“We do need to see the industry participating in marketing...a plan to review could be looking at a dollar for dollar set up between (Council) and the tourism industry.”
Clr Darriea Turley said that a strong funding partnership needed to be established with the state and federal governments to take the burden off Council.
Clr Black criticised the state of tourism in Broken Hill and the closing time at the VIC, which varies “from 3pm to 5pm.”
Foot traffic at the VIC was down 30 per cent in December 2013, when compared with 2012.
Clr Black also said that confused tourists had asked staff at both the VIC and a nearby pub why the gates to the Line of Lode were closed, restricting access to the Miners’ Memorial.
The Broken Earth Restaurant closed earlier this month, sparking concern over the future of the Miners Memorial, which lies next to the restaurant.
“I further hear, a number of tourists have gone to the Black Lion to ask about the locked gate,” Clr Black.
“We can’t afford to let the situation go on much longer. Our tourism industry is in a crisis.”