Cost of tourism underestimated

THE State Government has been accused of not giving regional towns enough money to promote themselves, but Ballina man Stephen Phibbs likes it that way.

He said the Northern Rivers didn't need a bigger share of the State's tourism budget because over-promoting the region would do it more harm than good.

“Byron Bay is a classic example, where tourists have taken over,” Mr Phibbs said.

However, Ballina MP and shadow minister for tourism Don Page said tourism was a major employer in regional areas, accounting for more than 73,000 jobs.

He said the Government underestimated the importance of regional tourism, saying regional areas got only about $3 million to promote themselves out of the tourism budget of $56 million, and that regional NSW accounted for two-thirds of the state's holiday and leisure market.

“Tourism operators in regional New South Wales are struggling and they need appropriate ongoing support,” Mr Page said.

“The State Government needs to immediately act on a key recommendation from the O'Neill report, which recommended $21.1 million specifically allocated to regional tourism in 2008-09.”

The report also recommends promoting regional tourism to Sydney residents; improving transport to the regions; and more focus by the State Government on developing regional tourism.

“It is important to promote Sydney as the gateway to Australia, however the State Government needs to do more to encourage people to venture into regional areas,” Mr Page said.

Acting Tourism Minister Linda Burney yesterday hit back at the claims, saying Tourism NSW invested $8 million a year in regional NSW.

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