Back in July of 2014, Clarence Valley Council (CVC) began reorganising the way it managed tourism and visitor services; at next month’s council meeting councillors will consider whether or not CVC continues to manage those services at all.
At last week’s council meeting, Cr Andrew Baker gained the support of councillors Simmons, Baker, Clancy, Novak, Williamson and Lysaught, to temporarily cease any liaison with the Clarence Valley Tourism & Hospitality Cluster (an informal business roundtable), pending Cr Baker bringing “a notice of motion [NOM] to the December 2017 meeting to deal with council’s tourism promotion activities”.
In 2014, CVC began transitioning to digital delivery of tourism services, putting an end to the Clarence River Tourism Association and the human interface it provided to the region’s visitors.
Part of the process included forming a tourism advisory committee, however, that officially ceased at last week’s council meeting due to lack of interest from the valley’s tourism business operators.
“I intend to bring a notice of motion that council manage an exit from the business of tourism promotion,” Cr Baker told the Independent after the council meeting.
“It’s a long running provocation where I’ve questioned seriously [and] strongly challenged whether CVC should be involved in economic development and tourism promotion activities at the expense of the general ratepayer.”
Despite his scepticism about CVC’s administration of tourism services, Cr Baker said he was prepared to “be completely open minded” regarding arguments for “remaining in tourism promotion”.
“But given the lack of interest from tourism industry and the current economic boom in the valley, it seems to be a good time to cease council’s spend on the tourism promotion industry,” he said.
But it’s not necessarily about saving money; not yet, anyway.
Former general manager Scott Greensill redirected the proposed savings flagged in the 2014 Stafford Group report into restructuring tourism ($639,690 by June 2018), towards “other tourism activities”.
The council now says it will make savings of $528,536 over the next three years (by 2020/21).
Councillor Baker is questioning CVC’s spend on promoting the valley, including its support of “external activities” such as its sponsorship of sports tourism events.
“What I hear from people in the tourism industry, is that they don’t want CVC doing advertising and promoting,” he said. “They want the local everyday things like the public toilets at Yamba cleaned more regularly, right through to the Grafton riverside walk – [the transition has been] long in planning and short in execution.”
Councillors at last week’s meeting, however, were cautious with their support for Cr Baker’s motion, most adopting a wait and see attitude.
“My support goes no further than today,” Cr Williamson said.
Councillor Kingsley, who voted against the motion, “reserved” his judgement until he sees Cr Baker’s NOM “next month”.
Cr Novak said it was a “good opportunity to shine a light” on CVC’s tourism operations.
Councillor Ellem, who voted against the motion, said he was “still prepared to give the [digital model] some time to see how successful can be”.
However, he said he was “less than impressed with some tourism events trying to lure [people] to valley through sports marketing”.
Cr Toms was absent.