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Support for tourism shake-up

Saturday, 6th December, 2014

By Andrew Robertson

The proposed creation of a peak body charged with developing tourism in the region is the “way to go”, according to one local tour operator.

A report into tourism in the far west found visitation to the region is in decline, the industry “disengaged and fractured” and City Council keen to reduce its current level of spending and control.

The 32-page report - Review and Recommendation of Governance Model for Tourism in Far West NSW - offers up three alternative models to the existing structure. 

The preferred model would see the creation of a new peak body responsible for the development of tourism in the region, including marketing and product development. 

The Far West Tourism Board, which would have industry and local government representation, would also eventually take over the running of the Visitor Information Centre.

Under the plan, Council would pay an annual fee equal to the amount it now spends on tourism each year to the board to operate the VIC.

The report, copies of which have been sent out to tourist operators, also suggests the board consider moving the VIC  from its current location.

The model also assumes an increase in the amount of member fees as well as a yearly contribution from the Central Darling Shire Council, which currently pays nothing.  

Local tour operator Mick McCulkin yesterday backed the proposed shake-up, saying it would offer a “fresh way” forward for the industry. 

Mr McCulkin, who is also a member of the tourism taskforce that had input into the report by Lightfoot Marketing, said Council had its own ideas of how to market the city and region.

“I think the opportunity here is that industry can get more involved in marketing and identify the right markets to present to,” he said.

“Similar models have been running successfully in other parts of the country and I think this is certainly the way to go.”

The owner of Tri State Safaris said at a time when many regional areas were “doing it tough”, tourism could be the region’s saviour - but it needed everyone to get on board.

His comments were echoed by taskforce project manager and Regional Development Australia executive officer Michael Williams, who said the taskforce had tried to build a governance model the industry had said it wanted.

“The whole community really needs to get behind tourism and understand that the visitor economy contributes to the lifestyle that we have now,” he said.

Tourism was worth over $74 million to the region and even modest growth would increase the region’s economy and create additional jobs, he said.

But Mr Williams said the taskforce did not expect the changes to happen “overnight”.

The report will be formally presented to Council on Thursday, when workshops would also be held at the Musicians’ Club to allow industry operators to provide feedback.

“The process is about the entire region working together to ensure whatever is developed is inclusive of the entire region, creates growth, supports the diversification of the region and importantly creates jobs and career pathways,” Mr Williams said.

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