Clarence Valley Independent

We used to handle (tourism) so very well

Ed,

A recent letter-to-the-editor from one of the volunteer workers at Ferry Park (who’s name was with-held), highlighted how so many visitors to the Clarence Valley feel totally abandoned by the information services currently provided by Clarence Valley Council.

The vast majority of regional councils throughout Australia accept that providing services to visitors, after they arrive in the council region, is their primary responsibility. By doing this effectively it leads to visitor spending spread throughout the region, increased visitor spending, longer stays, repeat visits and word-of-mouth recommendations……it’s a no-brainer!

But not Clarence Valley Council (CVC)……they have totally destroyed decades of hard work by the industry-managed Clarence River Tourist Association (CRTA)…..they have cashed in the valuable real estate assets and kept the money…..they have abandoned the excellent maps and brochures funded by advertising…..they have abandoned direct contact with visitors via staffed Visitor Information Centres (VIC)….they have abandoned any effective relationship with local tourism industry operators…..BUT they have also kept the money (over $200,000 per year) that local businesses pay to provide staffing at local VICs via a tourism differential rate.

CVC like to suggest that their digital services make printed material for visitors and face-to-face services totally unnecessary. The newspaper industry has been impacted by the internet but still prints newspapers. Most of the world acknowledges that we are in transition from printed to digital…..but we certainly have not reached the final stage. Many Australian regional councils are currently spending significant money to expand and improve their VICs……but here in the Clarence Valley we close them down and cash them in. Is CVC right…..and the rest of the world wrong?

CVC also chooses to pay consultants to carry out basic tourism projects. The old CRTA won so many regional and state tourism awards and award entries were always prepared by CRTA staff. CVC have managed local tourism services for 5 years and have yet to win one award. They are so desperate for credibility that in 2018 they paid a consultant nearly $4000 to prepare their entries in the “marketing segment” of the North Coast and the NSW State tourism awards. In the North Coast awards there were two entries in the marketing segment……Coffs won gold……silver and bronze were with-held as no other entry reached the required standard. They fared no better in the State awards. They should have known that $4000 worth of lipstick is unlikely to win a beauty contest when applied to a pig. No worries….it was ratepayers forking out the $4000 anyway.

The Ferry Park volunteer was wise to request his/her name be with-held as CVC do not appreciate advice or criticism. I have endeavoured to convince CVC that they need to urgently modify their approach to local tourism. I spoke at their 2018 Budget and Operation Plan public meeting in Maclean and was directed to leave the meeting by the General Manager after disagreeing with him about the establishment of the Tourism Differential Rate in the late 1980s….…..incidentally, I was responsible for the adoption of that special rate by three local councils at that time.

Tourism is such an important industry in the Clarence Valley. We used to handle it so very well……it’s a tragedy to see it so mismanaged today.

Bill Day, Yamba
Former CRTA Manager
Former Councillor Maclean Shire Council

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