On returning home, international tourists can be quiet ambassadors for Australia, with a heightened appreciation of our society, culture and general way of life. This can help soften international media stereotypes of Australians as beer swilling racists, dodging crocodiles and sharks. So says industry/regional development consultant, Rod Brown.
What are the big issues for the future? How can we entice more international tourists? A mate of Rod Brown’s, with considerable experience in tourism policy, says three things are important:
Training and the quality of tourism accommodation and services is the big issue – everyone agrees a nationally consistent accreditation system is a good thing, but a bit of ‘patch protection’ is holding things back – not good if Australia wants to be on a truly world footing;
How do we reconcile and manage tourist access to national parks and protected areas? This includes upgrading infrastructure, signage, visitor information etc. Rod’s ‘policy expert’, whose job ensures he sees all of Australia, suggested the south west of Western Australia, around Margaret River, as an outstanding example of getting it all together.
Apparently some smart operators, mainly out of Perth, moved there and developed world class wineries and tourism accommodation….the vision and doggedness of local councillors were also important!
The steady growth of tourism numbers from China (including Hong Kong) due to the growth of structured tourism packages and the gradual freeing up of citizen movements creates a huge potential market – as disposable incomes in China rise. India is another largely untapped market.
Only 23 per cent of international visitor nights are spent in regional areas. However, growth in regional tourism is expected as people seek a ‘unique tourism experience’ not just a destination.
The Federal Government’s Tourism White Paper stresses the importance of building stronger tourism packages and upgrading the infrastructure associated with regional tourism venues.
This can be ‘tricky’ in regions without ‘world heritage standouts’. A degree of ‘supply push’ will be needed for regional tourism initiatives to attract international tourists. Areas with this potential are the Yarra Valley, Barrington Tops, Gippsland Lakes, Northern Rivers and the Kimberley says Rod.
The White Paper argues that Local Government has an important role in providing the infrastructure and public attractions, BUT, Local Government in the regions simply hasn’t got the money to do it properly.
The answer must lie with the State Government loosening the purse strings, and government at all levels being more savvy about attracting private sector investment.
The problem with many regional tourism projects is that they cannot maintain strong revenue streams throughout the year, and they are susceptible to disruptions to transport services. Bundling up the tourism product and providing public infrastructure (within limits) to support the tourism industry are the most important ways of reducing these investor risks.
In this regard, the Prime Minister comments regularly that the States now have significant GST revenues feeding into their coffers. This is very true, and it should be noted that the Federal Government’s own regional tourism infrastructure program cannot do any more than provide top up funding for a limited number of tourism projects.
The Federal role will be to address the national accreditation, quality, training, immigration and branding issues, and to build a rapport with other national governments to promote international tourism.
WHO IS ROD BROWN?
Rod Brown’s Canberra based consultancy group, Australian Project Developments Pty Ltd, specialises in industry/regional development and government liaison. FOR FURTHER INFO PHONE (02) 6231 7261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org