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Tourism checks its cards after new zone reshuffle

THE tourism industry is facing a significant reshuffling of the cards at both the Federal and State level which the industry is hoping will result in a more focused marketing drive.

Federal Tourism Minister Joe Hockey released a blueprint last week to develop a new brand for Australia.

The new thinking at the Tourism Council of Australia is to move away from Australian icons and sell Australia as an experience rather than a destination.

To achieve this a super body called Australian Tourism is to be created – born with the merger of the Australian Tourist Commission and See Australia.

In addition, the public submission process has just closed on the Western Australian Government’s plan to breathe new life into the tourism sector.

The WA Tourism Commission is due to come up with its final recommendations, which include cutting down the number of tourism bodies operating around the State from 10 to five.

The Tourism Council of WA has expressed disappointment with the Federal Government initiative. Its president, Manny Papadoulis said the green paper was “hollow and did not address the hard issues”.

“It does not contain the directions and answers we are looking for,” he said.

“It would appear that the Government still doesn’t fully appreciate the value of tourism.”

The industry is hoping some of the solutions will be drawn out through the State process.

WATC chairman Alan Mulgrew said the State zone strategy, which included the amalgamation of the Great Southern and South West regions into one zone, was a key component of the WATC’s five-year plan to grow tourism faster than any other State.

“The strategy represents a paradigm shift in the way we do things,” he said.

Under the proposal a Perth zone, incorporating Peel and parts of the Heartland will be formed, along with the South West zone, taking in the South West and Great Southern regions; a North West zone, including the Kimberley and Pilbara.

In addition, a Central South East zone, incorporating the sparse regions of the non-coastal Mid West, the Goldfields, Upper Gascoyne and Esperance; and a Coastal zone, incorporating parts of the Gascoyne, the Mid West and the Heartland stretching from Lancelin to Exmouth, will be formed.

The WA Government has allocated funding of $3.25 million to be split between the zones.

It said removing the number of tourism bodies would reduce ad-ministration costs and lead to more streamlined services.

The industry has given cautious support to the program.

While accepting that the State changes will have major implications for the South West tourism industry, Tourism South West president Kerry Clarke said he believed it was workable.

However, he said the industry would continue to ensure that South West tourist operators got a fair deal under the major changes.

“Although it is not our first choice it can be a workable zone,” Mr Clarke said.

However, he warned against moves to extend the boundary further to include the Peel or Esperance regions.

“The Tourism South West board believes it is not in the best interests of the tourism operators of the South West to be managed by a Zone Tourism Association including Esperance and/or Peel regions,” Mr Clarke said.

The association said this would only water down the commitment of the industry and lead to greater administration costs.

The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, which has a strong concentration of members involved in the tourism industry, has also decided to get behind the State Government initiative.

In his latest address to members, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce executive director John Longley, who also sits on the Tourism Council of WA board, said while the plan to expand the Perth tourism region to include areas between Lancelin and Mandurah, was not perfect, “we should support the plan as it gives the metropolitan area the opportunity to have some real marketing put in place”.

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