President’s column

ARE YOU AWARE that China is about to become Australia’s largest source of tourists? Are our Visitor Information Centres the best way to get them out the big cities to the regions so you we can all share in the benefits?

Thanks to the Australian Regional Tourism Network’s (ARTN) recent report “Local Government spend on Tourism”, we can now draw a more accurate bead on how active councils are in the tourism space and what they’re doing to maximise their returns on investment.  As you’d expect, the findings are not uniform or monolithic.

I was at the ARTN’s annual convention in Canberra this week, and spoke to delegates about the survey findings, the extent to which councils have skin in the tourism game, and what the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) can do to support councils’ tourism strategies now and into the future.

ALGA understands that adequate funding for roads and infrastructure, especially  digital infrastructure,  is critical if regional councils are to capitalise fully on their tourism potential.

We’re continuing to fight not just for councils to receive a greater share of Commonwealth funding, but for them to be given greater involvement in key strategic initiatives like Regional Development Australia. Additionally, however, councils must take the initiative and analyse their tourism strategies more critically – and regionally.

Are councils paying sufficient attention to the latest tourism research and adjusting their marketing strategies accordingly? 

China is about to overtake New Zealand to become Australia’s biggest source of inbound tourism. Not only are more travellers coming from Asia, they’re increasingly resorting to the internet to find out about  destinations and to complete their bookings – all without knowing about or even setting a foot in a Visitor Information Centre.

Increasingly, tourism enterprises will need to be digitally switched on, and to consider whether destination marketing, rather than the provision of services like Tourism information Centres, represents a smarter use of limited resources.

Consider this: after a publican uploaded a photo of the night sky above Sea Lake on to social media a few years ago, Chinese tourists suddenly started flocking to the small town in Victoria’s Buloke Shire for an unrivalled  glimpse of  the heavens.  

The Sea Lake community is hoping the region can become an internationally recognised Dark Sky Reserve – the second in Australia after the Warrumbungle National Park.

The opportunities, and rewards, are there for councils and regional tourism authorities who are prepared to ask the right questions, to take a hard look at the data, to broaden their thinking into digital platforms, and back their judgement.

Does that include you?