The Northern Star

Pounding tourist beat to drum up business

ASSOCIATE Professor Dianne Dredge, of Southern Cross University, was yesterday guiding representatives of Far North Coast councils to tourist hots spots in Woodburn, Ballina, Lismore, Eltham, Lennox Head and Ballina.

The tour was conducted in the hope the councils of Tweed, Ballina, Byron Bay, Lismore, Kyogle and Richmond Valley would unite to create an integrated tourism promotion plan.

“With a collaborative approach to tourism planning across councils, the tourism industry in this region can defy the economic downturn,” Prof Dredge said.

“Research shows sustainable, competitive destinations generally have local governments that engage in tourism planning in innovative and strategic ways.

“Councils need to understand the nature of tourism and how their activities impact on and influence the tourism industry in that area.

“It could mean doing the things councils do a little better, like dealing more effectively with development applications or managing assets like signage, parks and gardens to make sure they are all tourism friendly.”

The tour yesterday was part of a local government master class run by the university's School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

Richmond Valley Council's tourism and promotion officer, Rod Caldicott, said the Northern Rivers was well-positioned to ride out the economic slump.

“It's about getting the building blocks in place,” he said.

“This master class has been able to pull together layers of local government organisations, including chairs of committees, general managers, councillors, senior directors of departments, tourism managers and visitor centre staff.”

Mr Caldicott said while councils could become protective of their boundaries, tourism crossed those boundaries.

“People just want their experience to be fantastic and they want to be able to tell people about it,” he said. “They don't think about which council area they are in, they just move around from patch to patch.

“Councils also need to be able to work well with all our tourism providers, because without them we don't have a tourism industry.”

Prof Dredge said a survey had been taken of Northern Rivers tourism organisation and providers about their council's performance.

She said this feedback, and that of the class, would be presented at a local government tourism conference at Kiama in March.

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