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the tourism con …

The Beagle Editor, With the upcoming detailed report being prepared by The Beagle into the staffing, performance, measurement and future of Eurobodalla Tourism to be released in 2018 we thought your readers, and especally those in the south, might be interested in our latest media release: the tourism con …

It was ‘glad-handing’ all round at Bega Valley Shire Council’s first meeting for 2018 last week, in particular when it came to embracing the report tabled by the Director Strategy & Business Services detailing the results of the recent work undertaken by the “Tourism Industry Liaison Group” (TILG), to review the options open to Bega Valley Shire Council, the tourism sector & the community more broadly, to more effectively promote & develop the tourism sector in the Bega Valley.

Kicking-off the self-congratulatory hyperbole, Cr Bain informed her fellow councillors that the TILG had “concluded that the outsourcing of our tourism marketing & promotions had been successful in the past”. Notwithstanding this bluster, neither Cr Bain nor the TILG offered any evidence whatsoever in support of that contention.

It was all downhill from there, with Cr Tapsott demonstrating her knowledge of economics by declaring that “when we invest in tourism, we invest in everybody; everybody gets a bit”, while Cr Dodds demonstrated her grasp of the subject by waxing lyrical about the mythical economic benefits that tourism has supposedly brought to the shire in the past decade. Cr Seckold joined the “MeToo” brigade by congratulating the TILG members & insightfully observing that “it is really a good report”.

Of course, it was hardly surprising that the TILG’s recommendations were adopted unanimously & while Cr Griff did make a passing suggestion that more could be done to improve the measurement of performance of the marketing & promotion of tourism activities, from their remarks & their actions, all the councillors not only demonstrated a remarkable ignorance of the real state of tourism in the shire, but a singular willingness to maintain their ignorance.

The Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) is not only disappointed with the quality of the work completed by the TILG, but more importantly, the direction in which it appears to be leading council. For the benefit of Cr Tapscott, while the BVSRRA believes that tourism should benefit everyone, that may not be the case for any number of reasons, including if the destination marketing is ineffective or if the influx of visitors is so high that local infrastructure can’t cope & the identity & culture of local communities is threatened or lost.

The BVSRRA remains flabbergasted that no effort has been made to build a rationale or business case for continuing ratepayer financial support for the tourism sector. And, by virtue of the fact that such a justification has apparently been dismissed as unnecessary, there has been no real effort made to analyse & understand the effectiveness of the $3M ratepayers have spent on promoting the sector over the past decade.

In a recent opinion piece “the many faces of tourism”, the BVSRRA highlighted the fact that ratepayer financial support of tourism had not produced meaningful outcomes for the community, Indeed, on the available information, tourist visitation numbers, tourism income & tourism employment have declined significantly over the 10 year period that Sapphire Coast Tourism (SCT) was responsible for promoting the sector.

So, while there is no rational justification for continuing to invest ratepayers’ funds in the tourism sector, the community is nevertheless being asked to do just that.

As if that is not reason enough for concern, the BVSRRA also has a major concern that there appears to be a strong push to actually substantially increase the level of ratepayer funding to the sector, in-line with earlier proposals developed by SCT, with some suggestions being that the level of investment should be doubled or even tripled.

In 2014, SCT publicly promoted its view that public tourism expenditure should be significantly increased to $750K-$1M annually. To put theses sums in perspective, under the current method, if all commercially zoned properties in the Bega Valley were expected to underwrite a $750K per annum investment, it would cost each of them around nearly $900 annually, while if the investment was to be spread equally across all ratepayers, it would cost each of them around $40 each annually.

For the record, the BVSRRA believes that all ratepayers should fund the reasonable cost of operating the shire’s four Visitor Information Centres, but on the basis that these should operate on a commercial footing, as is the case in many communities across Australia, thereby minimising the net cost to ratepayers.

The BVSRRA also thinks that it is not unreasonable for all ratepayers to underwrite the cost of providing & maintaining community infrastructure such a wharves, jetties, boat ramps, signage, public toilets & waste disposal facilities etc that benefits the community, as well as visitors to the shire.

And finally, given that the TILG only consulted with self-interested stakeholders of the tourism sector, it is hardly surprising that there is an appetite for a sizeable increase in ratepayer support for the sector. Had the TILG taken the trouble to consult more widely, including those currently funding support for the sector (owners of commercially zoned properties & ratepayers more generally), they doubtless would have encountered an entirely less friendly reception to their plans.

The BVSRRA will continue to monitor council’s progress in respect of this issue however, if there is an attempt by BVSC to maintain or increase the level of ratepayer subsidy of the sector (apart from the areas highlighted above), it will strenuously oppose that effort.

John Richardson


Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association

#Opinion #Bega

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