Innovation roundup: local government and tourism

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Innovation roundup: local government and tourism

As tourism becomes increasingly important to the Australian economy, there have been a number of examples of local government playing an innovative role in this area. This article examines a few stand out examples.

The Mackay Regional Council, responsible for one of Queensland’s fastest growing areas, resolved to continue a three-year funding agreement for $239,000 per annum. This implementation is delivered through the Mackay Whitsunday Regional Economic Development Corporation (MWREDC) With the MWREDC a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to creating economic growth through stakeholder engagement, regional promotion and regional projects, the Council’s investment in the group has delivered a range of benefits to residents and businesses in Mackay. This has included the ‘Coal to Coast’ website which assists local employers to attract staff by providing prospective employees with information on relocating to the Mackay region. Also, there is the Mackay Hotel Accommodation Strategy, which encourages developers to build hotels in the region, with several projects either underway or in the advance stages of planning.

Outback councils of regional North West Queensland and the Northern Territory joined forces to promote the famous outback-driving route known as the Overlander's Way. This highly innovative initiative, known as the Overlander's Way Marketing and Rebranding Project, was a collaboration of the North West Outback Queensland Tourism Authority. It involved eight northern Government regions including Townsville, Charters Towers, Flinders, Richmond, McKinlay, Cloncurry, Mount Isa (Incl. Camooweal) and Tennant Creek. The Project and Overlander's Way group was awarded top prize at the 2011 Outback Queensland Tourism Awards in the category of Most Significant Council Tourism Initiative, with McKinlay Shire Council being recognised for their efforts as project sponsor.

Four councils from the New England high country (Armidale Dumaresq and the Shires of Guyra, Uralla and Walcha) joined forces to launch a campaign to draw tourists to the many and varied attractions of their region. The $100,000 ‘Experience the Highs’ campaign came from Armidale Dumaresq Council’s 10 Year Tourism Strategy which recognised the need for a collective approach to promote tourism. It benefited from significant funding support from ‘Destination NSW’ under its Regional Tourism Partnership Funding Program. This drew upon local talent, expertise and local support to promote tourism, which currently contributes over $60 million per annum to the high country economy. The campaign’s title drew upon the natural beauty of the region and its art, food and wine. Experience the Highs won an award at the 2012 Australian Mobile Awards for its iPad app, which delivers 360° panoramic photos of the natural and other wonders of the region. The iPad app also included a sleek, printed visitors guide, a Facebook page, a campaign website, and a sustained public relations campaign.

Campbelltown City Council, located at the base of the Adelaide foothills, turned a history of local gourmet food production into a highly successful tourist and business enterprise. The Council launched the ‘Flavours of Campbelltown Food Trail’ campaign during February 2010 in an effort to support local business and promote the City as a tourist destination. Its success since resulted in being awarded Bronze Medals in two categories at the South Australian Tourism Industry Council Awards 2011. 

The Food Trail showcases a variety of foods, including fudge, continental biscuits, almond bread, cakes, nuts, Italian wines, sausages, breads, cheese, smallgoods, coffee, and locally grown fruit and vegetables. The number of involved businesses taking part increased from 9 in 2010 to 24 during 2012, with many of these businesses expanding their enterprises as a result of the increased demand. The project is now complemented by Moonlight Markets held on a monthly basis from November and through the summer period.

Alpine Shire produced a mobile visitors’ guide to the region, the Bright and Surrounds Official Visitors Guide (OVG) app, which allows visitors to access information and contact details on accommodation providers from their iPhone or iPad.

Chris Lewis is Visiting Fellow at ANZSOG Institute for Governance.

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