Councils told not to go it alone on tourism

By Rob O’Brien

Regional communities are going to feel the full force of the economic downturn unless tourism marketing becomes more targeted, a leading tourism group has argued.

The tourism industry’s peak body the Transport and Tourism Forum (TTF) said state and local governments needed to collaborate to avoid the worst effects of the financial crisis.

‘Cannibalising’ between state and regional tourism businesses would only hamper the sector’s efforts to combat the declining number of visitors to Australia.

“One of the problems is that regions and states are competing with each other for business, using resources to try to attract the same visitors, when a co-operative approach would be far more effective,”  said Olivia Wirth, TTF executive director.

“The real question isn’t whether there’s enough funding, it’s whether the available funding is being allocated appropriately and used effectively. 

 “Cutting this cannibalisation would allow marketing activities to be better targeted, and using a holistic approach would create greater return on investment. 

Tourism is a $90 billion industry which employs nearly half a million people around Australia, 227,000 of those in regional and rural electorates.  In many parts of the country, tourism is a major driver of local economies.

A December report by Tourism Australia’s independent forecasting committee predicted that the industry would take in $1.8 billion less in the two years to 2010 than it predicted four months earlier.

The Tourism Forecasting Committee said inbound travel would fall by 4.1 per cent next year because of the global financial crisis. It also predicted the number of domestic trips would drop by 0.9 per cent. 

However, local governments are complaining that regional communities were being neglected behind more bankable tourism hotspots.

A spokesman for the Local Government and Shires Associations of News South Wales (LGSA) said that councils were forced to ride on the coat tails of state campaigns to promote Sydney to the world, but that very little support had been offered to rural and regional parts of the state.

“The Local Government and Shires Associations have consistently called for greater state and federal support for local tourism and greater funding to councils to develop and maintain infrastructure to support tourism,” an LGSA statement to Government News said.

“At this stage, however, very limited direct funding support is provided to councils to support tourism. Councils largely fund their tourism activities, promotion and infrastructure from their own revenues.”

Daniel Gschwind CEO of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) said that local governments had a major role to play in the promotion of funding and marketing of their communities.

“The call to action is really work smart and work collaboratively, and grab opportunities where they are, we have to work together on this,” he said.

“For most councils, they can’t go it alone, they have to work collaboratively to be extremely effective in a very tough market.”

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