When does #unspoilt become #spoilt

When does #unspoilt become #spoilt Summer is here again and with it comes the annual influx of visitors to the South Coast. The South Coast for this discussion is three distinct areas. 1. Shoalhaven and the Illawarra – popularly referred to by Sydneyites as the South Coast the southern Shoalhaven boundary around Durras describes the radius that Sydney folk will travel for a weekender or coastal holiday. Shoalhaven remains the most popular destination in NSW outside of Sydney. Within the South Coast Region, the Shoalhaven has been positioned within the context of the ‘Heart, soul and essence of the South Coast” Sydney has finally discovered via very effective marketing that the South Coast is accessible with an improved highway and that it is far less visited and #spoilt than the now #saturated and #overpriced #northcoast What’s with the #hashtags? #hashtags are what now drives marketing. Facebook posts promoting anything from a café to a resort, a beach to an activity includes a #hashtag – as does Instagram – an example Come #explore #unspoilt #eurobodalla on the #southcoast when you #visitnsw to #discover #beaches, #oysters, #kayaking, #peace, #nature, #seals at #montagueisland and the nightlife of #batemansbay, #moruya and #narooma.

Include a stunning and seductive photo and within seconds that image is carried around the world into the device feed of 100’s of thousands of switched on followers of those hashtags all interested in an #unspoilt #holiday Unfortunately for #hyamsbeach in the #shoalhaven it is now #ontrend as being the #whitest and most #pristine #empty #beach in #australia and because of this the little sleepy village of around 110 people is now #swamped for around six months of the year. With such publicity and reputation comes the #paininthearse of day visitors parking anywhere, and pooing and peeing anywhere even though the Council have bought in rangers to assist with parking and port-a-loos to help with the other demand. Shoalhaven has responded quite cleverly by running a #100beaches tourism campaign to encourage visitors to the 99 other beaches along their coastline to spread the visitor impact. An excellent example of “spreading the love” and trying to spread the load and impact of visitation has been their use of social media as can be seen here via local photographer Josh Burkinshaw’s Depot Beach image

Above: With nearly 7.5 million likers/followers of Australia.com on Facebook an image like this captured by Josh Burkinshaw is pure gold for marketing and the #unspoilt campaign for #visitshoalhaven has been incredibly successful. This image was "Liked" 68,000 times.

The image above went viral around the country via Australia Tourism social media and while it was very effective in further promotion of the rShoalhaven region it also helped to get the message across that there were several options to Hyams Beach and in fact Shoalhaven has #100beaches to celebrate and explore. In recent years the numbers of visitors coming to the Shoalhaven has rapidly increased. Not just by more informed Sydneyites but also from the ever increasing Canberra numbers who make an annual exodus to the South Coast and are now able to enjoy the improved access into the Shoalhaven via the upgraded Nerriga Road. Many of these visitors once holidayed in the Eurobodalla, driving the more torturous route via the Clyde Mountain, however courtesy of the newly upgraded, Federally funded, Nerriga Road that now connects Braidwood to Nowra, the Canberrites and the many others from the South West have a choice of two South Coast destinations and the Shoalhaven is #flavourofthemonth over #eurobodalla with its #diversity, #facilities, #activities and #ammenities and also because of the very clever and effective marketing of #visitshoalhaven in Social Media. Canberra is a now a city of foodies and they are attracted to places that show a capacity to deliver the food they love and want. An ice bucket of farmed prawns and a beer beside a pool asking “Beer and a bucket of prawns anyone?” just doesn’t get the response that images of delectable plates conjures up; and where every image in social media leaves an “impression” Shoalhaven Tourism know how to tick the boxes.

Above: just some of the stunning food images on the Shoalhaven Instagram account they have uploaded and shared to showcase the cuisine of the area.

However, along with the increased numbers come the consequences. Visitors to the Shoalhaven are starting to realise the road network and the remote facilities at places like Hyams Beach aren’t able to accommodate their numbers and that the #chill, #tranquilty and #bliss that was #proported is a bit #outhere. It is now quite normal to see day-visitors being turned away from Hyams Beach due to a lack of parking and to see Heavy Traffic alerts for Ulladulla and Milton as well as further north as holiday traffic queue for kilometers along the Princes Highway. 2. Now for the next section of the South Coast – the Eurobodalla To begin with … fortunately the word #eurobodalla isn’t #ontrend in Social Media and, try as one might, any publicity or marketing using the word #eurobodalla falls flat on its face. To many locals that is a saving to ensure the area remains #undiscovered and #unspoilt. But they are coming and the numbers increase every year and, as a community and a region, we need all the visitors we can muster as #tourism is one of our primary industries and a main employer. We are also seasonal. This means the summer influx is a massive upward spike in demand that pushes our infrastructure to maximum. Sewers work overtime, parking is pushed to its maximum, cafes and accommodation swell with the demand and our garbage collection goes galactic with domestic pickups and from reserve and street bins that are often filled to overflowing. With that population increase comes the spike in crime with theft, graffiti, vandalism, drunkenness and violence. There is also the increase in littering from fishing-bait bags in waterways to soiled nappies in our bushes. But still we need their custom because it is how many of our locals feed their families and pay their mortgages. It is fair enough that the very high number of retirees here have an attitude to summer and wish that the visitors would all just go somewhere else however they do say this from the privileged comfort of not being in the workforce, not having dependents and not being reliant on the annual influx (and income) to get them through the rest of the year. It is also fair enough that the retirees also bemoan that their rates (which are considerable) contribute to the upkeep of an over designed infrastructure that is able to deal with the capacity required of a peak two months before dropping back to just ticking over for those who live here permanently. In 2013 the South Coast Regional Tourism Organisation Inc. offered the following in a submission to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Tourism in Local Communities: Tourism to the South Coast of NSW brings $2 billion p.a. into our local economy and employs directly and indirectly 20,000 people.

However much of the Tourism visitation is seasonal with very high peaks.

These peaks, whilst good for business, place a great strain on local infrastructure and services. These costs are borne by the local Councils representing the local community.

Further the seasonal nature of the industry requires investment from the private sector that is not fully utilised for most of the year. This means that investment in tourism does not generate the returns that other industry sectors enjoy. The NSW Government should give greater support to those Councils whose areas incur significant costs in hosting large visitor numbers yet have no means of deriving direct benefit from those visitors. These costs are in services provided and infrastructure maintained.

The reality is that the Eurobodalla has tourism as a primary industry. The area relies heavily on tourism and there is little alternate industry on the horizon other than in health care and ancillary services for our aging population. We therefore have to promote ourselves in the tourism market place to ensure we remain economically viable and sustainable as a community and that we get our fair share of the tourism dollars available from visitors and from Government handouts. While Shoalhaven Tourism have made a solid financial commitment to its industry over recent years Eurobodalla has not; and as a result Eurobodalla has not fared as well. While there may have been increases in visitation numbers in recent years there is little evidence that this was due to any actions by Eurobodalla Tourism, rather than a result of positive and measurable actions by Destination NSW promoting the South East as a whole with campaigns such as #unspoilt that included the three South East regions collectively. In Eurobodalla there has been little change in the traditional marketing approach of glossy brochures, conference attendances, mainstream advertising and use of Visitor Information Centres. The Internet has disturbed their model and their income stream and they have not yet recovered; dabbling around the edges with social media and restructuring themselves, appointing a new Tourism Manager who might take control and offer direction. Another clear challenge for Eurobodalla as a region to overcome is its geographical placement, being south of the successful Shoalhaven that captures and retains many holidaying Sydneyites. Even the International visitors exploring the south coast now detour the Nerriga Road or Clyde after ticking off their #bucketlist of swimming with #dolphins and visiting #hyamsbeach to #canberra before hightailing it via the Hume to #australianalps or to #victoria to drive the #greatoceanroad. This does come at a cost to the Eurobodalla and Sapphire Coast who often miss the coastal drive tourists who choose the faster route between Sydney and Melbourne via the Hume with a stop in Canberra. With the announcement by Lonely Planet that Canberra has beaten Sydney and Melbourne to be named one of the world's top 10 cities to visit in 2018 there will be even more of a trend for travellers to take the inland route having visited the Shoalhaven to get their South Coast fix. We now sit at an interesting crossroads in terms of seeing firsthand the negative examples of tourism, as showcased by the oversaturation being experienced by the Shoalhaven and the North Coast. In #byronbay they now have to erect No Parking between 8pm and 8am signs in suburban cul-de-sacs because of vanners looking to park and sleep overnight. The locals are objecting to the massive increase in campervans not wanting to pay caravan park-fees. Thy are also objecting to the rapid increase in Stayz and AirBnB houses popping up in neighbourhoods that convert once quiet streets into year-round party zones where councils have little control and the police are sick of attending noise-complaints. In terms of Eurobodalla we are no different. In recent years we have lost too many traditional motel beds and we soon stand to lose two more Batemans Bay motels to the new Batemans Bay Bridge project. In place of traditional visitor accommodation is an upsurge in private home holiday rentals. These holiday houses pay domestic rates for domestic services and making no financial contribution towards the local tourism industry. It is understood that these “home industries” do not require the same strict (and expensive) compliance codes as traditional commercial providers. Many are "mum and dad" operations that also make no commitment to industry employment and, with minimal overheads, are steadily undermining hotel and motel accommodation as we know it. What do we want that for ourselves? We are without doubt on the path to where our once #unspoilt will soon be #spoilt. Do we choose instead to not reveal how incredible our coastline is in Social Media and advertising campaigns in-case THEY #come and #discover, then #tweet and #upload.

Where, before we know it, #mackenziesbeach and #brouleebeach is overrun, cars are parked everywhere, rangers are directing traffic and there are lines to the installed port-a-loos? The impact of holiday vehicle traffic is also being felt with summer queues that go back to Nelligen along the Kings Highway, exacerbated when the Batemans Bay Bridge is raised and while some might argue that the new Batemans Bay Bridge will help the growing problem the proposed next set of traffic lights to be installed on Vesper Street and other set to be installed on Beach Road at the Perry Street roundabout will simply turn the Batemans Bay “by-pass” into a farce. Further south in Moruya there are also the annual holiday queues that often drift kilometres south of Moruya as the town’s traffic lights create their summer chaos. 3. The next South Coast NSW region; the Sapphire Coast It to is under pressure from the Victorians who are making their way north for their annual holidays in search of the more stable NSW summer weather as well as the less populated beaches by comparison with their own. The Far South Coast from Eden to Bermagui often swells beyond its capacity. Infrastructure is often pushed to its maximum performance and the accommodation and eateries are all in very high demand. In times of drought and water restrictions things get nervous. While the Sapphire Coast serves Victoria as a holiday destination they also serve the South West and the ACT and those visitors, by their numbers, are also building. Like the Eurobodalla the Far South Coast is also reliant on tourism as a cornerstone for their economic sustainability and like Eurobodalla and Shoalhaven with the increased numbers come the economic burdens and the negative social consequences. So what is being done to manage all of this? Where are the town planners, the economists and strategists, the realists and the idealists to sit around a table and debate if the model we have and the model we are creating is the right model to pursue? Is tourism the best industry for us? Can we afford the considerable social and environmental costs of being a tourism destination if it comes with underutilized hotel-rooms for most of the year, under-employed chefs, cleaners, baristas, waiters and masseurs all waiting for the next round of Public and School Holidays along with ratepayers paying premium rates so that the visitors, when they come, might all be able to go to the toilet at the same time. Of interest, in terms of planning is the South Coast Destination Management Plan 2013-2020 that identifies the primary goal is to increase visitor expenditure within the South Coast Region. The Objectives are to: · Encourage and facilitate development that will take the Visitor Economy forward, be sustainable and deliver quality year-round visitor products and experiences. An example of this is Council’s intent to develop a presently undeveloped Burri Point Reserve, Guerilla Bay

In their Draft Recreation Open Space 2017 Council offers of Burri Point Reserve: “A popular location for bushwalking, the Burri Point headland walk along the coastline is being formalised and signposted. The installation of picnic tables will further activate the Reserve as a popular outdoor recreation location. The addition of a lookout (and suitable interpretive signage) that provides views back to the ancient cliffs would further educate residents and visitors about the natural history of Guerilla Bay. With these additions, the Reserve can be classified as a district recreation park. The shame of this matter is that Council didn’t bother telling the locals of their intentions and when the locals found out they immediately flared up saying that such “development” would bring with it considerable social detriment with parking and traffic problems, litter, vandalism and a measurable compromise to the existing native vegetation. Basically it would #spoil the #unspoilt and all because of Council’s need to, by their South Coast Destination Management Plan 2013-2020 :“Ensure that the infrastructure and services needed to meet the needs and expectation of visitors and facilitate and support the growth of the Visitor Economy are in place and provide a diversity of quality attractions, activities and visitor experiences.” Funnily enough the same document then adds the following as a complete counter argument to the proposed Guerilla Bay project

·Protect and preserve the natural, historic, cultural and lifestyle assets of the South Region which form the basis for visitation (ie the appeal of the destination) and influence with how visitors react to and bond with the area. With the key outcomes being sought by the DMP being the Visitor Economy is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. One might say “Bugger the Visitor economy" and ask "what about a key outcomes being sought by the DMP for the RESIDENTS Economy that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.”

#Opinion #LeiParker