The latest round of tourism disrupts is a worrying sign for tourism and business operators according to David Grace, mayoral candidate in the upcoming December 4th local government elections, David says “The last review of the council’s Eurobodalla Destination Management Plan was undertaken more than three years ago when it was updated in response to the release of a Destination Southern NSW report. While it sought to grow visitor expenditure and overnight stays by 25% this year, the tragic bushfires and now the pandemic have clearly made that document’s predictions irrelevant in the current economic environment.
“I don’t want to sound negative but the current mayor’s leadership in this space has gone on holiday: she talks about promoting Eurobodalla’s distinct points of difference from coastal competitors and continuing to ensure the economic viability of visitor information centres, but in January she announced she was closing both centres without a concrete plan for the next steps, and at a time when our tourism operators and businesses are direly in need of help and support. Mr Grace said the 2019-20 bushfires largely wiped out the entire south coast business and tourism sectors’ prime earning opportunities when between 30-50% of annual income is derived, and the subsequent COVID pandemic has further damaged the sector throughout 2020.
"With local businesses in 2021 now facing the latest Delta wave and a state-wide lockdown, the council needs to urgently work with these sectors to ensure they survive," Mr Grace said.
Mr Grace asserts that it should be a priority to bring together all of the shire's chambers of commerce, as well as South Coast Women in Business, Destination New South Wales, Destination Southern NSW, Caravan and Camping Industry Association, National Parks and Wildlife Service, state and federal MPs, and the Australian Tourism Industry Council to address in an effort to support vital tourism and associated small businesses.
“Eurobodalla has almost 1.5 million visitors annually, and its tourism operations support about 2000-2500 jobs with another 1200 or so indirectly supported by the sector – that has encouraged almost $400m being spent in the local economy annually.
“Current council tourism and sports events sponsorships of $5000-$8000 are a start, but for most tourism and events operators struggling to stay afloat and pay their bills, it’s a drop in the ocean." Mr Grace says that the issue needs far greater consultation and leadership, drawing on local input and expertise, as well as other south coast councils’ input, that of umbrella industry groups and of course, the NSW Government and Destination NSW.
“I’ll begin with ESC staff experts in the tourism and business support functions, before reaching out to convene a round-table with the tourism sector and small business operators in our shire, as well as with state and federal sector representatives," he said.