Matter of Public Importance
Mr DAVID HARRIS
(Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.30 p.m.]: New South Wales is blessed with diverse regional landscapes with iconic outback settings, magnificent World Heritage-listed rainforests, stunning beaches and the wonderful snowfields of the Snowy Mountains. Our natural assets offer a unique opportunity for us and our regional tourism operators to work together to promote the huge range of experiences awaiting domestic and international visitors. Our challenge is to engage and support this diverse industry. That is why, in late 2008, the New South Wales Government announced a comprehensive new tourism strategy. This strategy was developed in close consultation with industry and is supported by an additional $40 million in funding over 3½ years to assist in its implementation. A crucial goal of the strategy is to increase the number of visitors to regional New South Wales by promoting our regions as highly desirable tourism destinations.
The State Government is delivering on this goal through the Regional Tourism Partnership Program. Under this program, the State Government is making $5.1 million available to our 13 regional tourism organisations each year, through to 2011. In 2010 more than $3.7 million is being allocated to the regional tourism organisations for marketing campaigns, while the remaining funding is allocated to assist the regional tourism organisations in building their capacity to identify and develop tourism opportunities for their region. The Regional Tourism Partnership Program encourages industry to partner with Government to make the most of their marketing dollars and increase their marketing opportunities.
This means that regions like the North Coast, the South Coast, the Blue Mountains, the Snowy Mountains, the Hunter and, I am pleased to say, the Central Coast, have access to more than $1 million each this year to promote the magnificent tourism opportunities in their regions. These new funding arrangements are delivering remarkable results. In 2009, the first full year of the program, 87 regional marketing activities and projects were supported throughout New South Wales. One of those was the Central Coast's "Come to the Coast" campaign. In September 2009 the New England North West Region invested $170,000 in a campaign to build awareness of the attractions in the region and increase the number of visitors in spring. The campaign generated a 475 per cent increase in visits to the region's website compared with the previous month and generated 287 leads to industry.
From February to July 2009, mid North Coast destinations invested $767,130 in a campaign to promote the region. The campaign resulted in a 688 per cent increase in industry investment compared with previous campaigns, increased visitors to the destination websites by 45 per cent from the previous year, and delivered an estimated 88 per cent return on investment to participating industry operators. Almost half the 162,500 direct jobs created by tourism in the State are in regional areas and visitors to regional New South Wales spent $11.5 billion in the year ending September 2009. This underlines the importance of the tourism industry to our regions and endorses the strong support the New South Wales Government provides to build awareness and attract more visitors to our State.
I am pleased to report that we are seeing an amazing revival in caravanning and camping throughout the State, particularly in our coastal regions. The Caravan and Camping Industry Association reports a 10 per cent to 20 per cent increase in caravan park occupancies over the summer, and this is no fluke. In fact, the New South Wales Government and the camping and caravanning industry have recently got together to encourage more Australians to holiday at home in New South Wales. Right now the New South Wales Government is supporting a $166,000 campaign to promote the fantastic camping and caravanning options available throughout New South Wales. There are plenty of great holidaying opportunities right throughout our wonderful State and I was very pleased to read about them in the Sydney Morning Herald
last Saturday, 20 February. Many of our State's hidden treasures were visited and highly praised by Penny Watson in her article "State wide in 60 days". Penny travelled across our great State writing for the Lonely Planet Australia
guide and had this to say about Griffith:
At the tourist information office I'm told that Griffith is the unlikely destination of choice for Korean backpackers. A travel story on the city was published three years ago in a Seoul newspaper and they've welcomed a steady stream of Koreans ever since.
A little further on in the article, as Penny headed for the State's east coast, she said:
This coastline has some of the best beaches in the world. There are plenty of other marvels, too, some suited to backpackers and others to cashed-up thirty-somethings and baby boomers doing now what they missed in their 20s.
How true those words are. Our State's east coast most definitely has something for everyone. I am a Central Coast person and I can testify to enjoying some of the best beaches in the world, particularly Soldiers Beach and Lakes Beach in my electorate. The New South Wales Government will continue to support our regions' tourism operators and will continue to help those operators grow and strengthen local tourism. We will do this because we understand that factors outside our control impact on the tourism market. For example, the strong dollar and heavy discounting by travel and accommodation operators last year have made it less expensive to travel overseas and that has been a challenge for many of our regional operators.
That is why the New South Wales Government's tourism strategy could not have come at a better time. The focus on encouraging our regional tourism operators to work more closely together and with government is backed by additional funding. We have seen that this focus is making a difference and will continue to make a difference, encouraging more tourists to visit our regions, supporting local economies and supporting local jobs. There were more than 22 million domestic overnight visitors in the State last year, totalling almost 80 million nights. New South Wales still has the greatest share of all domestic visitors in Australia, and around a third of all domestic trips are taken in New South Wales. Australia as a whole has seen a decline in domestic travel and we must address this. The New South Wales Government is supporting dozens of campaigns in our regions to highlight the fantastic experiences on offer. We are working closely with the tourism industry to make it easier and more affordable for people to take a break in New South Wales.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS
(Upper Hunter) [5.37 p.m.]: As the shadow Minister for Tourism I place on record my complete support, and that of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr O'Farrell, and every member of the Liberal Party and The Nationals in this place, for regional tourism and its imperative as an economic driver for regional New South Wales. Indeed, regional New South Wales received more than 30.6 million domestic day trip visitors in the year just ended, which is a 7.8 per cent increase on the previous year, 2008. That is remarkable. It is one of the industries in Australia that has shown growth, and nowhere more so than in regional New South Wales.
Regional New South Wales received 74.5 per cent of visitors and 67.3 per cent of visitor nights were from intrastate sources. However, the contribution from interstate sources was 25.5 per cent of visitors and 32.7 per cent of nights. I do not think there is any doubt or any dispute in this Chamber about the importance of regional tourism. Nonetheless, I will speak briefly about the establishment of the 13 regional tourist organisations [RTOs] which cover various parts of the State—the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, central New South Wales, the Hunter, the Riverina, the outback and other areas. Those organisations have a funding problem.
If this Government is serious—in 2011 the incoming government will be serious—it would realise that financial support, mediocre as it is, is vital to continue the great work that those organisations do, which has contributed to the statistics that members on both sides of this Chamber have been using while debating this matter of public importance. For example, in 2008 the outback regional tourist organisation was allocated $120,000 in administrative funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis. In 2008-09 the introduction of the O'Neill report and subsequently the Tourism NSW strategy that followed indicated there would be capacity building for three years at $170,000 per annum and that Tourism NSW would stand off the boards and become an adviser.
I have been advised that in 2010 marketing dollars will be capped at $110,000, which is a reduction in funding. There will still be dollar-for-dollar funding, even though Sydney tourism organisations are funded $2 for every dollar. Regional New South Wales is expected to be funded dollar for dollar even though it has limited industry infrastructure and investment compared to Sydney metropolitan locations. In December 2011 all capacity funds will be cancelled and only demand funds will be available for all regional tourist organisations. In areas such as the outback this neglects the main focus required for a sustainable industry, that is, product development and management.
I applaud the Government for introducing this matter of public importance and I am pleased to respond and to indicate the support of members of the Liberal-Nationals Coalition. However, when it comes to funding regional tourism organisations—the front-line agencies for regional tourism—the meagre funding and expected funding cuts tell a tragic tale of a lack of commitment by this Government to regional tourism. Major events and the flow-on of tourists who attend them, be they in capital cities or in regional locations, are important drivers of regional tourism. The multiplier effect of ongoing tourism, especially in regional areas, is dictated by the existence of these major events. That is what occurs at every event.
Interstate and international tourists are looking for something more than just one night of an AC/DC concert. These events have a multiplier effect. About 260,000 people saw the three AC/DC concerts that were staged in Sydney. They then visited the Blue Mountains and went to the Hunter or to other locations to complete their two-week or 10-day experience, which was of incalculable benefit to our economy. This Government has completely dropped the major events ball, as four events were lost in one week alone. For a number of years under this administration New South Wales has been observing the loss of major events and I am aware of other major events that will be lost. For example, Love Never Dies
, the Andrew Lloyd Webber sequel to Phantom of the Opera
, undoubtedly will go to Melbourne even before the bidding has begun.
Let me give members a quick snapshot of the past seven days. First, the Victoria Cross exhibition announced that it would not be visiting one of the Australian mainland capital cities, that is, Sydney, as it did not bid. Sydney did not put up its hand. Instead, it said, "We are so close to Canberra that people can go there." What a disgrace! Second, Melbourne won the Rock of Ages
theatrical performance. Third, the Socceroos announced that the last match they will be playing is their farewell international on the way to the World Cup. That event, which was booked for the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, was snaffled two days ago by Melbourne and will now be held in Melbourne. Fourth, the Danny Green fight was also booked for Sydney. However, the Premier of Western Australia said, "Western Australia will go all out to take this event to Perth, even though it has been booked for Sydney," and he succeeded.
The Danny Green fight will go to Perth, as will its sequel—Danny Green versus Mundine. Perth went all out to attract the Danny Green fight as two fights are involved. This Government does not have the faintest idea about major events and their impact on regional tourism. Whilst I applaud the topic of this debate, the Government has a long way to go and it has a lot to learn. [Time expired.
Mr GERARD MARTIN
(Bathurst) [5.44 p.m.]: Let me correct some of the misinformation we have been given by the member for Upper Hunter and shadow spokesperson. Under the chairmanship of John O'Neill, who has just resigned, New South Wales has made great strides in securing major events in this State, some of which have been snaffled from Victoria. This Government will not embark on ridiculous bidding wars or pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for major events; they have to be backed up by common sense. Danny Green is a Perth boy, so it is not hard to see why Perth was keen on securing that event.
That is the sort of negativity we get from Opposition members on matters such as this. Let me concentrate on the comments made by my colleague the member for Wyong, who spoke about the wonderful tourism opportunities that New South Wales has to offer and the important role that tourism plays in our regional economies. The New South Wales Government recognises the importance of tourism to our regions and the fact that it is vital to smaller economies in inland New South Wales. The member for Blue Mountains would be aware of a magnificent $125 million investment in my electorate that borders his electorate—the Wolgan Valley eco-resort.
Mr Phil Koperberg:
One of the greatest in the world.
Mr GERARD MARTIN:
Indeed. This Government was instrumental in establishing that resort—a flagship tourist destination in regional New South Wales. The New South Wales Government is supporting a $290,000 campaign, through the Regional Tourism Partnership Funding Program, to encourage travellers to visit the outback this autumn and winter. The new campaign will build on the fantastic efforts made by local tourism bodies and operators working in partnership with Tourism NSW in recent years. This campaign features television, print and online advertising, and will include the promotion of special CountryLink fares to Broken Hill and packages, including outback tours. We have had the added advantage of wonderful rain throughout that area, which will see the return of the magnificent natural wildlife and flora that make it such a spectacular place to visit.
The Government has been campaigning regularly. Last year it ran a similar campaign that resulted in a 10 per cent increase in the number of people using the CountryLink service to Broken Hill. The New South Wales outback offers visitors a truly unique Australian experience, with friendly outback towns, pubs, opal mines and iconic Australian wildlife, all in a spectacular setting. On Saturday 20 February I was pleasantly surprised to open the Sydney Morning Herald
and to read that Australians are heading to the New South Wales outback for their holidays and that they are staying longer. Australians are visiting the outback and they are marvelling at what we have to offer. In the Sydney Morning Herald
article, which is entitled "Rain and flowing river lure domestic tourists west", the chief executive of Outback NSW Tourism is quoted as stating:
The number of domestic visitors was up by 18.6 per cent, to more than 472,000 people
She went on to say:
The Darling River Run campaign, which set out itineraries visitors could follow, had had the biggest influence on overnight stays. People used those itineraries as their plan It takes you back to indigenous history and settler days.
We have a magnificent product to sell, and the Government is working with those regional tourism organisations to promote seed funding, to make sure they have the established staff on the ground as well as the money for the promotional campaigns, which not only attract people from overseas but also domestic tourists. The Darling River Run campaign will be celebrated again later this week at the prestigious Qantas Australian Tourism Awards as one of the 26 finalists from New South Wales. This is thanks to the huge efforts of tourism operators, councils and all those associated with Outback New South Wales Tourism in bringing the Darling River Run project to fruition. The Darling River Run is a unique Australian experience, and Australians and visitors from overseas alike are enjoying the program.
There are a number of great regional products and services around regional New South Wales such as the Old Leura Dairy in the Blue Mountains and the Oberon visitor information centre in my electorate, which is the gateway to the magnificent, internationally known Jenolan Caves. We also have the hotel management school in the Blue Mountains, the Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages and Spa Retreat, the Coolangatta Estate on the South Coast and the BIG4 Deniliquin Paringa Holiday Park in the Riverina. I mention again the Emirates eco-resort in the Wolgan Valley, which is probably the most significant investment in tourism infrastructure ever in New South Wales. I commend the matter of public importance brought on by the member for Wyong.
Mr DAVID HARRIS (Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.49 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Upper Hunter and the member for Bathurst for their participation in this very important debate on regional tourism. As I outlined in my presentation, the Regional Tourism Partnership Funding Program is having a significant impact across New South Wales. I mention the $3.7 million that will be going to regional tourism organisations to support them in their campaigns. On the Central Coast just recently, Regional Development Australia Central Coast held a Focus on the Coast tourism forum. Central Coast Tourism was one of the bodies that participated in that forum. The key message from its representative was that local regions need to be smarter in the current market and they need to combine resources to get the maximum bang for their buck, so to speak, in advertising and promotion. The Government's Regional Tourism Partnership Funding Program allows regions to pool their resources and add additional funds to it so they can get their message out to a very wide audience to make sure they are promoting their region in a good light and in a positive way.
The member for Bathurst, in his usual positive fashion, outlined some of the great initiatives occurring across the State that helped to promote regional tourism and therefore regional economies. As we all know, tourism is now one of the greatest drivers of local economies, particularly in country areas. As traditional industries start to pull out of some areas, tourism has jumped into the hole and is supporting a large number of jobs, particularly for our young people. That is really important. It is not just about bringing visitors and saying that we have nice places to visit; it is all about generating jobs and employment, whether in hospitality or in venues holding particular events. The Government absolutely supports local economies putting on these events and being able to publicise them to create employment.
The member for Bathurst knows, as a Country Labor member, the great work that is being done through the Government's Regional Tourism Partnership Funding Program. As I said before, the ability to be able to get out and advertise outside your region, which is one of the drivers for the program—being able to advertise in the Sydney market and in other capital cities—is a way of bringing to regional areas people who may not know some of the wonderful things the regions have to offer.
In our area, for example, at the end of March—after quite a period of time—we will be sinking the former HMAS Adelaide
, which will become not just a dive site for the State and an attraction to tourism in the State, but will also become an international venue that people from all over the world will visit. It will be the closest ship sunk off the Australian coast. Several more have been sunk in other States, but this one will be very close to the shore and very accessible. The site is only an hour from Sydney and an hour from Newcastle, and the money that the initiative will generate has been recognised by our local tourism organisations as being a major catalyst for a whole range of tourism opportunities across the Central Coast. Things like this are happening right across New South Wales, and the Government is certainly supporting them.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the New South Wales tourist industry operators who have been named as finalists in this year's National Tourism Awards, many of them from regional New South Wales. This year we have 26 finalists in total, including Booderee National Park on the South Coast, Newcastle airport and Crowne Plaza Newcastle, Moon Shadow Cruises from Nelson Bay on the North Coast, Bent on Food from Wingham on the North Coast, Wanderers Retreat in Port Stephens, the Vintry Country House and Vineyard in the Hunter and Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse holiday accommodation in Seal Rocks. This is an outstanding achievement and a glowing endorsement of the standard of excellence within our regional tourism industry. I know the New South Wales Government will continue to support the tourism industry now and into the future, and everyone in regional areas would certainly support this.