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Sitting on the tourism divide

A successful tourism operator is questioning whether the local council is getting value for money from its association with Tourism Snowy Mountains.

Tumut will move into the Murray-Riverina tourism catchment area as of July next year, as part of a new regional tourism approach set down by the NSW government. The state has announced a $43 million funding package with the aim of increasing tourism in the regions over the next four years.

Included in the package are six new Destination Networks responsible for tourism in their areas: Riverina Murray, Southern NSW, North Coast including Lord Howe Island, Country and Outback NSW, Sydney Surrounds North and Sydney Surrounds South.

Tumut and the Snowy Valleys have been placed in the Murray-Riverina network, with the Snowy Mountains sitting in the Southern NSW network – meaning that tourism drives for the two regions will be overseen by two different bodies.

The local council currently contributes $20,000 a year to Tourism Snowy Mountains, an organisation that receives its funding from councils and businesses in the region rather than the state government. It is currently unclear as to whether this relationship will continue when the new Destination Networks come into effect.

Tim O’Brien is the Director of the Boggy Creek Shows; a Tumbarumba based live performance that is a tourist pull in the region. He said Tumut and Tumbarumba are not getting their moneys worth out of their contribution to Tourism Snowy Mountains.

“I feel that most of the promotions are designed for the other side of the mountains. They have the big investments out there, but the two councils do put in money on this side of the hill,” he said.

“Tourism Snowy Mountains has a big name. People want to go to the Snowy Mountains and that is the draw card – but all the traffic seems to get directed from Canberra up through to Cooma, not much traffic gets diverted to this side of the mountains.”

Snowy Valleys Council Interim General Manager Bob Stewart said that Tumut should stay as a member of Tourism Snowy Mountains. However, he also said that the town needs to work harder on its own tourism marketing.

“Tumut gets the attention it deserves,” he said. “The question you need to ask is: what do the local tourism operators do to bring tourists here? They need to be active in the process of promotion.

“The structure that [Destination NSW] is putting into place should enhance tourism. There’s always been a debate as to where Tumut sits – I should think we should have a foot in both camps, as a member of both the Snowy Mountains and of the Riverina.”

Mr O’Brien agreed that it will be up to the local providers to entice tourists into the region.

“We’re neither here nor there; we’re on the edge of the Riverina and we’re on the edge of the Snowy Mountains,” he said. “But working together Tumbarumba and Tumut should be able to push their tourism together.

“I think the tourism operators in both areas are going to have to get off their backsides and do a bit. We can’t just sit back and whinge about no one helping us, we’ve got to help ourselves.

“We have to work together a lot more. No one’s going to come to Tumut and Tumbarumba to see one or two things, they have to come to see six things and stay overnight.”

Greg Lawrence, Chairman of Riverina Regional Tourism, said it will be up to Tumut to decide what their place in the Riverina will be.

“That’s a decision that Tumut needs to look at. The Riverina is a fairly large, diverse region, so each member needs to think about the best ways to drive their own tourism,” he said. “Tumut needs to think about their long term future. What do they see as their best value?”

The Snowy Mountains currently attracts 3.7 per cent of the total NSW regional tourists, while the Riverina draws 4.6 per cent of visitors to its town. The largest age group visiting the Mountains is 15-29, whereas those aged 50-59 are most attracted to the Riverina.