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Opportunity missed

Saturday, 13th December, 2014

By Andrew Robertson

A tourism operator has slammed the lack of attendance at workshops held this week to give industry the chance to comment on a pivotal new report.

The report found visitation to the region is in decline and the industry disengaged and fractured and heavily reliant on City Council for strategic direction and marketing.

It outlined several alternative models of governance for the industry which has long called for a greater say in how marketing dollars are spent.

But less than 100 people turned up to two workshops held at the Musicians Club on Thursday, according to Regional Development Australia.

Eldee Station owner Naomi Schmidt, who made a 112km round trip to attend, said yesterday the poor showing sent a message that “we don’t care”.

“I travelled the 112km round trip to BH to attend what I thought was a very important meeting regarding the future of our tourism industry in this region, but unfortunately my enthusiasm for a new way forward was not reflected by many other tourism operators in the region. It was a very sad sight to see,” Ms Schmidt said in a Facebook post.  

“What everyone needs to remember is that council could stop funding tomorrow or reduce funding so why aren’t we preparing and acting proactively.”

Ms Schmidt told the BDT that the report came at a time when the industry was looking for change and Council wanted to reduce its spending in the area.

“So why can’t we act proactively and put into place an organisation that is in part controlled by industry, and involve other highly-skilled professionals to improve the visitor economy of Far Western NSW?” 

Under the preferred model of governance a new peak body with industry representation would be established to develop tourism in the region. It would also take over the running of the Visitor Information Centre.

An implementation committee made up of industry representatives will now be established to drive the process through to its conclusion. 

But Ms Schmidt, who runs a farm-stay on her property near Silverton, said the industry needed to get involved.

“It’s my hope that the implementation committee can create the motivation and the desire of industry to participate and make it clear why they should support the organisation.

“Being able to participate in ongoing marketing programs ... would make our marketing dollars go much further and would improve the visitor economy for everyone.”

Regional Development Australia executive officer Michael Williams said the turnout to the workshops was particularly disappointing when compared to the industry’s involvement in earlier stages of the process.

“More than 300 people turned up to consultations in May to tell us where we were going wrong,” he said.

He put the poor showing down to apathy and singled out local operators for failing to contribute to the future of their industry.

While most of the city’s motel operators attended the consultation sessions in May, according to Mr Williams, only a handful turned up to this week’s workshops.

The same went for Argent Street traders and service station operators.

“It’s the servos that get first go at tourists that come here,” Mr Williams said.

“People like Naomi made the effort to come in from her place but not (people) from around the corner.”

Mr Williams said attendance numbers at the workshops were so small the results could not be used as a mandate to push ahead with any of the models.


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