The South Coast is missing out on millions of tourist dollars each year because it is not adequately promoting its interesting and unique history, the President of the South Coast History Society Peter Lacey asserts.
He has called on the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils to take the first step towards remedying this by initiating a discussion with appropriate industry stakeholders, such as local museums, Chambers of Commerce and tourism operators, to develop a regional plan which will more appropriately publicise the area’s history and heritage.
“Two facts are uncontestable,” Mr Lacey suggests.
“First, the South Coast has an extensive, particularly interesting, very colourful history. And a lot of evidence of that history remains. We’re not like Sydney or Melbourne, for example, where so many traces of their histories have been swept away. Signs of our local history are everywhere – we now just need to properly identify these and to then share their associated histories with visitors to the area.”
“The recent Bega Shire’s Hidden Heritage initiative dramatically illustrated this. 101 objects were identified, extensive dossiers of information compiled on each, and a fabulous Hidden Heritage App was created. But we could easily have included 1,001 South Coast objects on that list and in that App – with each one of them having a fascinating history, each one of them having a fascinating story that would appeal to visitors to the area!”
“And visitors to the area ARE interested in the area’s history and ARE wanting to learn about that history during their visit.”
“Cultural tourism is the current ‘in’ thing in tourism: the United Nations Word Tourism Organisation recently estimated that more than 50% of tourists worldwide wish to experience a country’s culture and heritage. In Australia that figure is even higher. Figures from Victoria reveal that 63% of visitors to that state are cultural visitors, with 66% visiting museums or art galleries, and 65% interested in historical or heritage buildings.”
“So, it is clear that the South Coast is sitting on an unexploited goldmine – its history and its heritage – which could easily be developed into a major tourist asset to the area. This will then deliver enormous benefits across the entire region,” he said.
A list of 14 “obvious” first steps that could be quickly and easily taken, at absolutely minimal cost, was also presented to Councils. "These range from installing simple signage at more places that are of historical or heritage significance, to ensuring that a South Coast history expert is on board every cruise ship visiting Eden and Batemans Bay, so that passengers can learn about the area’s history before they actually arrive.
“The reaction of Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils to the suggestion that they facilitate a broad-based discussion about the potential value of our local history and heritage has been very interesting,” Mr Lacey revealed.
“Bega Valley Shire Council has acknowledged the potential that local history and heritage offer, and has undertaken to include an examination of how these can be more effectively promoted when their arts and cultural strategy, which includes cultural tourism, is reviewed in 2020.”
“In contrast, Eurobodalla Shire Council asserted that ‘heritage tourism is well valued in the Eurobodalla Shire’ and outlined the support they provide to the three Eurobodalla-based historical societies, without acknowledging that more or more appropriate promotion of the area’s history and heritage could or should be considered.”
Meanwhile, South Coast History Society itself is taking steps to immediately provide more information to visitors about the South Coast’s history and heritage.
2,000 extra copies of the December issue of ‘Recollections’, the South Coast’s free history magazine, have been printed for distribution to hotels, motels, visitor apartments and caravan parks during the peak summer tourist season. Half of that issue outlines the histories of the thirteen biggest towns on the South Coast.
“We want visitors to the area to have some idea of the fascinating histories of the towns they are visiting and perhaps to also visit one or two local museums while they are in the area,” Mr Lacey explained.
The December issue of ‘Recollections’ also includes a lengthy piece about the history of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. This is particularly appropriate because 2019 is the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the Scheme.
The issue also contains an article on an exceptionally successful community-initiated fundraising effort that followed the disastrous Reedy Creek-Tathra bushfires last year.
‘Recollections’ can be collected from libraries in the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla Shires and from many other retail outlets throughout the area. It is also available on-line at www.bit.ly/Recollections17. It is free.