Central Coast Tourism required to submit an Expression of Interest

Central Coast Tourism is required to put in a bid for Council funds

The long-awaited shake up of tourism management on the Central Coast has commenced, with Central Coast Tourism being told it will have to submit an Expression of Interest if it wishes to manage and deliver destination marketing for the region after July 1, 2017.

Central Coast Council Administrator, Mr Ian Reynolds, resolved at the November 23 Council meeting that expressions of interest be invited from suitably-qualifi ed external organisations to manage and deliver its destination marketing in collaboration with the tourism industry. Mr Reynolds also resolved that funding from Council for tourism management would be increased to $800,000 per year. This is despite Central Coast Tourism providing a proposal to Council outlining options for it to continue managing the destination in collaboration with Council for the next three years. The resolution was based on a report from Council staff that recommended that Council continue to fund Central Coast Tourism at existing levels until June 30, 2017.

The report, prepared by the Central Coast Council’s Connected Communities Department said: “Tourism is important to the Central Coast economy and is recognised as requiring a focussed approach to help drive economic returns for the region.” In fact, it is estimated to contribute around $912 million to the region’s economy annually. “Visitor expenditure has experienced year on year growth, however the growth rates are below what is being achieved elsewhere in NSW and nationally, indicating the potential of a far greater capacity than is currently realised on the Central Coast,” the report said. Central Coast Tourism had been funded by both Gosford and Wyong Councils since 1998 and had been responsible for marketing the region and facilitating industry relationships. It developed Destination Management Plans (DMP) as required by Destination NSW to access funding through the Regional Visitor Economy Fund. According to the report to Mr Reynolds, the current DMP runs through to 2017 and consultation around an updated plan for the region will commence shortly.

According to the report, the models used by different local councils to manage tourism include taking on the overall active delivery themselves, facilitating external organisations to do this, or combinations of both, with some activity conducted by on-theground local tourism committees. “Regardless of the models, there is generally an expectation that local government contribute fi nancially to support tourism development and marketing in their region,” it said. In March 2016, both former Gosford and Wyong Councils resolved to continue funding arrangements for Central Coast Tourism at the same levels as 2015-2016 ($566,210) until June 30, 2017.

“Major change has occurred in the operating environment on two levels; the amalgamation of Gosford and Wyong Councils to one regional Central Coast Council in May 2016, and DNSW’s new regional tourism model of Destination Networks announced in July 2016 to replace the current Regional Tourism Organisation structure. “Both changes provide an opportunity to review the current status of tourism management and consider the most effective model to help drive economic returns for the Central Coast region.” The impact of the NSW changes are yet to be realised, but the Central Coast will now be part of Destination Sydney Surrounds North with the Blue Mountains, Penrith, Hawkesbury, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Hunter region. “The funding of any DNSW driven marketing campaigns for the Central Coast region, or availability of marketing funding for application to the revised Regional Visitor Economy Fund are unknown,” the report said.

“Council proposes that the responsibilities of providing visitor information services, developing a major events strategy and leading the implementation of, and developing any future destination management plans will be fulfi lled by Council. “This proposal is about reviewing the mechanism of how Council approaches the signifi cant investment of public monies in tourism to ensure the best return on this investment for the Central Coast community. “The Expression of Interest will seek responses to demonstrate this, inclusive of how marketing will be delivered in collaboration with industry and other partnerships; and that activities can meet performance indicators around visitor growth rates, intentions to travel and industry satisfaction. “Central Coast Tourism Incorporated has met with Council staff and presented their options for the continuation of their role in tourism management.”

Mr Reynolds said that the timing was right for Council to examine its approach to tourism. “Destination NSW’s new regional tourism model and the projected population growth expected on the Central Coast has changed the tourism landscape,” Mr Reynolds said. Mr Reynolds added that Council was not waiting for the impacts of recent changes to Destination NSW’s regional tourism model to take effect, but was going to act in the best interests of the Central Coast now. “The roll-up of the Central Coast into a collection of visitor destinations that includes the Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, Hawkesbury, Newcastle and Penrith for consumer marketing activities, gives even more impetus for the Central Coast to continue its own strong positioning and capitalise on the projected visitor growth being driven by Destination NSW,” Mr Reynolds said. “I encourage the tourism industry to get involved in helping build the Destination Management Plan and help better shape the tourism potential of the Central Coast,” Mr Reynolds said. The expression of interest for tourism marketing and management is open to all suitably qualifi ed organisations, including Central Coast Tourism.

Coast Community News understands several local consortia are already being formed to bid for the lucrative EOI. In a statement, Central Coast Tourism said its Board “is intending on completing the proposed Expression of Interest to continue to lead marketing on behalf of the local tourism industry. “Central Coast Tourism is a non-for-profi t membership organisation with a long history of 22 years, marketing the destination and adapting its structure, membership and activity, based on the ever changing business environment,” the statement said. “In 2010, Central Coast Tourism was one of the first regional tourism organisations in the State to use a Destination Management Plan to grow the Visitor Economy, now mandatory by Destination NSW to access funding. “Since the release of the 2013-2017 Destination Management Plan, the Visitor Economy has grown by over 40 per cent, from $631 million to $891 million.

“Central Coast Tourism will continue with our planned destination marketing activities and run the Gateway Visitor Information Centre at Kariong and Gosford. “The marketing activities will include the launch of the new Destination Conference message in February, 2017, and a push to drive leisure visitors with a Consumer Marketing Campaign in March, 2017,” the statement said.

Agenda item 4.6, 23 Nov 2016 Central Coast Council ordinary meeting Media release, Nov 23, 2016 Central Coast Council Media Media statement, Nov 21, 2016 Leeanne Dyer, Central Coast Tourism Jackie Pearson, journalist