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Read between the lines: Not much hope to access the Federal Tourism dollars on offer

Back in December 2019 Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham welcomed the latest Regional Tourism Satellite Accounts data that showed the economic value of tourism in Regional Australia grew 6.4 per cent to $22 billion in 2017-18 and said it confirmed the ongoing importance and economic impact of tourism to our regions.

“Over 2.8 million international travellers now visit regional Australia each year, and whilst we want to continue to grow this number, we also need focus on getting these tourists to spend more and stay longer.

“We need to continue to shine the spotlight on the unique experiences and attractions on offer across regional Australia, and that’s why 80 percent of Tourism Australia’s current campaigns, feature tourism experiences outside of our capital cities.

“Enticing travellers to venture beyond our major cities remains a major focus of our campaign activity, and this puts regional Australia in a prime position to continue to capitalise on the growth we are currently seeing within our tourism industry.”

Assistant Minister Duniam said the report showed over 305,000 regional Australians were now in tourism jobs — more than 8 per cent of the regional workforce.

“Tourism is such a major job creator for regional communities with one in nine Australians working in regional Australia, employed in our tourism industry,” Assistant Minister Duniam said.

Move ahead to January 19th 2020 and we hear that Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has now announced an initial $76 million tourism recovery package saying "We've committed funds out of this $76 million so that those fire-affected communities can particularly, and be the only ones, who get to bid to be able to get funding to put on new events, new festivals, make new installations, whether they be art installations or other attractions that can help to get people back into those communities as they rebuild".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a supportive statement "Australian tourism is facing its biggest challenge in living memory."

"This is about getting more visitors to help keep local businesses alive and protect local jobs right across the country and especially in those areas so directly devastated such as Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills, the Blue Mountains and right along the NSW Coast and East Gippsland in Victoria." So apparently we might qualify in the Eurobodalla to get funding to put on "new events, new festivals, make new installations, whether they be art installations or other attractions that can help to get people back into tour communities as we rebuild." Council adopt the draft Eurobodalla Event Strategy 2019 – 2024 on the 13th August 2019 In that strategy they say "Eurobodalla Shire Council will encourage and support events that are effective in improving the Eurobodalla’s appeal and competitiveness as a tourism destination, support the new tourism brand positioning, grow visitation and expenditure across the year, and create vibrant experiences for visitors and residents." "These will include sports and destination events that utilise and celebrate the waterways, Batemans Marine Park, National Parks, state forests and activate open and public spaces for day and night events". But that is where it STOPS. All Council can do is 'encourage and support". They say in their Strategy that they can "Attract external events that align with the brand positioning, attract target visitor markets and catalyse product and experience development." They also say that they can encourage Destination Events that showcase competitive strengths, including events that: • celebrate and activate Eurobodalla’s strong natural assets (coast and rivers, National Parks, forests and Marine Park) • highlight Eurobodalla’s experience pillars (Immerse, Unearth and Taste) • leverage Eurobodalla’s range of quality infrastructure (sports and cultural) • incorporate the growing number of local producers e.g. dairy, fisheries and seafood, and sustainable agriculture

And they are pleased to announce that they can Collate, promote and disseminate the Eurobodalla calendar of events and provide advice to event organisers on suitable dates to maximise event benefits across the Shire and provide "a more balanced portfolio of events across the year" But let's look at what events we have already: The Narooma Oyster festival. The River of Art Sculpture for Clyde. The Bas Recently Batemans Bay hosted a Caravan Expo and Moruya used to have Granite Town. So now we have the latest Federal announcement of a package available to help regional Australia including the Eurobodalla "who get to bid to be able to get funding to put on new events, new festivals, make new installations, whether they be art installations or other attractions that can help to get people back into those communities as they rebuild". The big question IS. Just what are these new events, what are these new festivals and installations? Our own Oyster Festival, River of Art, The Bas and Sculpture for Clyde requires immense effort from committees and volunteers. They run the events out of passion for the region created by residents for residents. While Council might congratulate itself on having a Strategy that "encourages and supports events" the Federal money on offer is of little benefit to Eurobodalla as we have no one, no groups, no plans looking at MAJOR events and Festivals that might attract the funding. And even if we did we would have to then "bid to be able to get funding" in contest with other devastated communities across the country. There was an idea raised in 2018 to revitalise the Narooma Blues Festival, however, by the examples of the Narooma Hunfest and Moruya Granite Town festival any sucess of such an event is tied to the dollar that requires commitment, organisation and sucessful delivery. In all it is hard work at the hands of volunteers. So as we read between the lines of the latest Federal announcement of a $76 million tourism recovery package there is nothing there for us. The only thing we have on offer tourists are "All kinds of Natural" and from our forests to our beaches that doesn't look so good at present. So back to the drawing board Ministers. The South East IS open for business and the only thing that will ensure we remain open for business in the future is a Federal Business Recovery Package. Get on to it.

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