The newly formed South Coast Tourism Industry Association is taking the bull by the horns and stepping in to work with our vibrant tourism industry and its members to navigate through the challenges and opportunities facing regional tourism. The Association's aim is to bridge the gap between generic destination marketing campaigns and employ proven, measurable marketing and sales activities. The formation of the association comes as a breath of fresh air to what can only be described as a stagnation with the expiry date of Eurobodalla's Destination Action Plan 2018 to 2021. While Council made its way through the eight recommendations of that plan any accomplishment went unmeasured and unreported. The intentions withing their Plan might have swayed anyone reading the gloss but the delivery was found wanting by many across the Eurobodalla Tourism industry who felt that there was so much more potential, if only there was real business inclusion and representation. It was well recognised that what was needed was a tourism focused, industry led and experience based organisation comprising representation from business chambers, individuals and associated businesses that had an active interest in the promotion of a sustainable tourism industry, not only in the eurobodalla region but across the South East. Eurobodalla Tourism had become fixated that it was the sole destination and bemoaned any thought that visitors to the south east might visit the Shoalhaven or Sapphire Coast. This fixation was more than obvious with their "all things natural" TV and social media campaign that invited visitors to the Eurobodalla without telling viewers where it was. "Eurobodalla - where the bloody hell are ya?" Funnily enough Eurobodalla was referred to as 'NSW's best-kept secret' and remains so. As the nation learns of Batemans Bay, Mogo, Bodalla, Cobargo, Sussex Inlet, Bega and Eden the fixation of marketing 'eurobodalla' leaves many scratching their heads. Council's tourism gurus have had their chance - now it is time for new comers, industry players with actual skin in the game, to step forward and return tourism representation to those who are actually in the industry and not just preferred consultants. It is long though that the demise of the tourism section of Council came when the industry was basically made mute and disempowered via a bureaucratic fiefdom aided by disengaged and gullible councillors. Prior to the fiefdom the Eurobodalla Council had two advisory committees. The first was the Tourism Advisory Committee. The purpose of the Eurobodalla Tourism Advisory Committee was to
Represent the tourism industry and advise and make recommendations to Council on matters relating to tourism, the development of tourism and the future of tourism in Eurobodalla.
The second committee was the Business Advisory Committee whose purpose was to:
Represent businesses and advise and make recommendations to Council on matters relating to business, the development of the economy and the future of the businesses in Eurobodalla
These committees were disbanded in late 2017. The immediate result of this was the loss of opportunity for business and tourism to participate in the decision making processes of Eurobodalla tourism. Therein began the decline, and the divisions that remain.
The South Coast Tourism Industry Association (SCTIA) was formed in January 2020 post the NSW South Coast bush fires. Since SCTIA's inception the South Coast tourism industry has faced the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and a swag of natural disasters.
"Eurobodalla - where the bloody hell are ya?" VIDEO: Destination NSW | Eurobodalla - All Kinds of Natural (Director's Cut) "Redefining the real meaning of natural, we captured the quintessential essence of Eurobodalla (NSW's best-kept secret) and launched a brand new tourism campaign for Destination NSW to showcase the undeniably attractive region and all its hidden gems".
The Board of South Coast Tourism Industry Association (SCTIA), led by Vice-President and Executive Officer Karen Dempster observe that the South Coast 2020 bushfires and subsequent pandemic and natural disasters, exposed a number of key issues that need to be addressed:
The industries reliance on peak holiday visitation - at the time of the bushfires, we discovered that 80% of revenue was gained from 20% of the year during peak holiday seasons, with no strategy to encourage visitation throughout the year.
Many products were not 'market ready' which impedes acceptance and promotion of our region through traditional tourism distribution channels, in addition to Local, State and Federal government marketing channels.
There should be encouragement of tourism businesses to see the benefits in working alongside Industry organisations, businesses, local, state and federal government departments to maximise opportunities to promote the South Coast region as a tourist destination.
Promote collaboration and shared visions between tourism businesses rather than seeing each other as competitors in their own destinations - working together makes a destination stronger.
Most recently, the South Coast has been marketed as four distinct regions; Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and Bega. A tourist does not see local government boundaries. By promoting the whole of the South Coast, it is more than evident that the region can be competitive in domestic and international markets, not only against other NSW regions such as Central Coast, North Coast, Hunter Valley but with other other regional destinations across Australia.
Whilst there are many government tourism organisations that support the development and promotion of products in our region, due to the current environment, there is insufficient support on the ground for businesses to be educated about developing market ready destination experiences and implement new forward thinking strategies.
In short, it is time for the tourism industry to engage and collaborate, to recover from the impacts of 2020 and 2021, to come up with new concepts and ideas that enable greater resources and funding support to rebuild and secure our place, as a desirable tourism destination to domestic and international markets with the aim to create a resilient and more economically sustainable industry on the South Coast, NSW. The formation of the association comes at a time when the Eurobodalla Destination Action Plan 2018 to 2021 comes to the end of its life, and its use-by date.
Anyone reading the Eurobodalla Destination Action Plan 2018 to 2021 will immediately recognise the jingoisms, the feel good mother statements and insular perspectives along with its many other shortcomings. It was created at a time that has long moved on and raises the question of the continued model that exists with Council providing a substantial budget every year for a tourism spend that fails to deliver in specific measurable terms.
The question will now be "Will Eurobodalla Council spend considerable time and money developing a new Destination Action Plan and if so will it be a cut and paste of the old one using the same consultant directed by staff who have little experience of international engagement, whole of region marketing and proven, value for money, measurable initiatives that openly and transparently serve industry expectations?".
"Resilient tourism businesses are those that continually innovate to stay ahead of market trends, look for efficiencies to reduce costs, diversification opportunities to increase income, whilst retaining a strong customer focus"
South Coast Tourism Industry Association (SCTIA)
The South Coast Tourism Industry Association recently (November 15th 2022) held launch night in Narooma where local tourism businesses and operators heard from key industry stakeholders and guest speakers including Michelle Bishop - President and owner of Bangalay Luxury Villas, Shoalhaven Heads and Sally Bouckley, from Southbound Escapes.
Bringing her wealth of travel and tourism experience in both international and national marketing and provision as a specialist tourism advisor, Karen Dempster,the executive officer and vice president of the South Coast Tourism Industry Association spoke at length on the importance of working alongside Local, State and Federal tourism organisations, and actually providing on the ground support to members to ensure they are accessing educational programs that help them develop high quality deliverable tourism experiences and attain relevant accreditation, whilst also representing the region and its members at appropriate trade and industry marketplaces and trade shows. "Tourism works best when connecting. We will identify big business connections and build creative partnerships that will deliver for the South Coast. We can't keep ourselves a secret any longer!"
South Coast Tourism Industry Association (SCTIA)
The association will hold its next launch night at Eden on November 22 (5:30 pm – 7:30 pm) at Hotel Australasia.