Tourism showcase highlights local landmarks to global travel agents

Overseas travel agents dining at Fat Tony's Tathra. Photo: Gang Gang Tours
Overseas travel agents dining at Fat Tony’s Tathra. Photo: Gang Gang Tours

Foreign travel agents have just experienced a free Eurobodalla and Bega Valley holiday – all in the name of research for their customers back home.

Not a bad gig!

NSW Tourism Minister, Adam Marshall says, “We want to ensure that international travel agents are well informed about Australia’s number one state for tourism.”

“Helping put money into local pockets and boosting local economies,” Mr Marshall says.

Called familiarisation tours within the tourism trade or “famils”, three parties of 31 agents from America, the United Kingdom, Italy, and France have just sampled, South Coast Sea Planes, Montague Island Discovery Tours, Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Tours, Bodalla Dairy Shed, Drift Eden, and Tathra Beach House Apartments – among a host of other local attractions.

“These groups are specialist travel salespeople who will now understand our region better, this experience will help them sell our region,” says Anthony Osborne, Executive Officer of Sapphire Coast Tourism.

The three local famils hosted by Destination Southern NSW were part of a group of six tours that sprung from a trade event on the Gold Coast run by Tourism Australia, and follow on from famils to the Snowy Mountains in May and June with 26 participants.

Sea kayaking with Region X at Batemans Bay. Photo: Kerrie-Anne Benton
Sea kayaking with Region X at Batemans Bay. Photo: Josh Waterson 

“Two of the groups travelled to the South Coast from Sydney, the other from Canberra,” Mr Osborne says.

Eurobodalla Tourism Marketing Coordinator, Kerrie-Anne Benton, says the agents loved their South Coast experience.

“Nature, nature, and more nature, that’s why the Sapphire and Eurobodalla Coasts were selected for these familiarisations,” Ms Benton says.

“And with flights into and out of Canberra and Singapore now, a gateway for travel has emerged connecting our region to the world.”

The Jindabyne based, Gang Gang Tours acted as chaperones on two of the three local tours.

“I had eight lovely ladies from the USA, front-line travel agents who will take this experience home,” says Gang Gang owner, Janine Becker.

“Out of the eight, seven hadn’t been to Australia before,” Ms Becker says.

“One of the agents told me people are wanting to get off the tourist trail, which is our region’s big selling point.”

Happy travellers at Glass House Rocks Narooma. Photo: Gang Gang Tours
Happy travellers at Glass House Rocks Narooma. Photo: Gang Gang Tours

Aside from teaching them about us, these opportunities also serve as a learning experience for local tourism bosses and operators.

“It was interesting to hear about travel patterns in other countries,” Ms Becker says.

“Workers in the U.S only get two paid weeks of leave a year, which means the average holiday runs seven to ten days.

“European countries tend to get four weeks paid leave, so they have longer holidays and have a great opportunity to travel to regional areas overseas,” she says.

Ms Becker doesn’t think the international market will be the biggest part of the Gang Gang business model, but she is keen to grow its influence.

“This experience will help us target our marketing better,” Ms Becker says.

The other point that emerged was that in most cases, international markets travel outside Australia’s peak periods and in some cases in the heart of our off-peak season.

In the year ending June 2016, the Eurobodalla welcomed 28,000 international visitors – 20% from the U.K, 15% Germany, and 11% from the U.S.A

Kerrie-Anne Benton thinks it makes business sense to target overseas holidaymakers.

“Australia is a finite market whereas there is massive potential for international travel growth,” she says.

“Canberra has opened up new opportunities for the South Coast and we need to encourage more tourism businesses to be international ready and have options ready for travellers.”

Captain Sponge Bob at Pambula talking oysters. Photo: Gang Gang Tours
Talking oysters at Pambula with Captain Sponge’s  Magical Oyster Tours: Photo: Gang Gang Tours

Further south in the Bega Valley, Anthony Osborne is nodding.

“Australia continues to see growth in international visits while the domestic market is static, it’s a no-brainer for us to focus some resources on building this market, and we have extra funding this year from Bega Valley Shire Council to tackle that challenge,” Mr Osborne says.

“We need to develop more experiences around our unique selling points. Nature and the coast are the number one reasons international travellers come to Australia and we have that in spades.”

*About Regional content is made with the backing of members, people, and businesses supporting local storytelling. Thank you – Sprout Cafe and Local Produce in Eden, Shan Watts, Robyn Amair, Gabrielle Powell, and Phil Martin.

*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council

New southern NSW tourism boss gets down to work

Shane O'Leary, the General Manager of Destination Southern NSW
Shane O’Leary, the General Manager of Destination Southern NSW

A new energy is at play in the region’s tourism industry, with Shane O’Leary appointed to the newly created position of General Manager, Destination Southern NSW.

O’Leary’s boots are under his new desk for the first time this week as this new organisation finds it’s feet and makes good on the State Government’s tourism reforms.

Most recently working as Economic Development Manager at Bega Valley Shire Council, Mr O’Leary says he is looking forward to settling into his new job and the work ahead.

“We will work across the region with peak tourist organisations in our Local Government Areas to identify, promote, support and facilitate strategic opportunities with Destination NSW involvement,” he says.

It’s a whopper of a region covering a dynamic mix of environments, communities, and interests.

Murrumbateman Filed Days. Source: Yass Valley Council
Murrumbateman Field Days. Source: Yass Valley Council

Destination Southern NSW covers eight local government areas – Goulburn Mulwaree, Hilltops, Queanbeyan‐Palerang, Upper Lachlan, Yass Valley, Snowy Monaro, Bega Valley, and Eurobodalla.

Six Destination Networks were established by the NSW Government this time last year, replacing eleven Regional Tourism Organisations that crisscrossed the state.

At the time Tourism Minister, Stuart Ayres said, “The networks will improve industry engagement and better development of visitor experiences and products.”

In July 2016, the Minister announced that around $10 million a year will be channeled into new initiatives that aim to bolster visitor numbers in regional and rural areas.

“The NSW Government has a goal of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by 2020, and we know that regional tourism is an important driver in meeting this target,” Mr Ayres said.

Each of the networks is governed by a six-person, skills-based, paid board. Southern NSW Directors include Natalie Godward from Cruise Eden, Wayne Kirkpatrick from Tourism Snowy Mountains, and Roger Linderman from Virgin Australia.

Southern Chair, Richard Beere comes to the job with 34 years of tourism industry experience. Ahead of this week’s board meeting in Cooma, Richard congratulated Shane O’Leary on his appointment as General Manager.

“We had a very strong pool of talented applicants but the interview panel was very impressed not only by Shane’s skills and experience but also his ability to “take us on the journey”

“He strongly believes in collaboration and negotiation to gain mutual agreement and support and this is also a key value of the Board,” Mr Beere says.

Skiing at Perisher. Source NSW National Parks
Skiing at Perisher. Source NSW National Parks

The chair says Mr O’Leary builds on the expertise of the board.

“But most importantly we all have a passion for the area and helping local businesses maximise the opportunities and benefits of increased tourism receipts,” Mr Beere says.

Apart from recent his local government experience, O’Leary  comes to the role having been Executive Director of Tourism, Events, and Sport with the ACT Government, and as Chief Executive Officer of the 2009 Sydney World Masters Games Organising Committee.

“Highlights included securing a number of first-ever and significant major sporting events for the nation’s capital,” Mr O’Leary says.

“The first ever One Day International cricket match featuring the Australian Cricket Team, a Trans-Tasman Netball Test,  and hosting the AFL’s annual Hall of Fame Dinner to name a few.

“Other highlights include leading the negotiations that resulted in the first ever naming rights sponsor of Canberra Stadium and overseeing the project that saw the installation of lights at Manuka Oval,” he says.

O’Leary, a former Yass local who now calls Bemboka home, was also part of the team that worked with Canberra Airport to develop the business case that would ultimately lead to the commencement of direct international flights to and from Canberra.

“This project, in particular gave a clear and detailed insight into the tourism attractions and potential of southern New South Wales,” Mr O’Leary says.

Whale watching at Montague Isand. Source Eurobodalla Tourism
Whale watching at Montague Island. Source Eurobodalla Tourism

“An integral part of the Canberra value proposition we developed highlighted the ease of access for inbound travelers to the region Destination Southern NSW will support and work with.”

Initial priorities for the new tourism boss will be setting up a headquarters for the organisation in Merimbula and recruiting an operational team, quickly followed by the development of a Destination Management Plan.

Destination Southern NSW is the direct conduit to government for industry support, development, marketing campaigns, and other services and support, Mr O’Leary says.

“In this regard, we will advocate and highlight opportunities and the needs of the region.

“The Destination Management Plan is the first step and will guide our work and help build a case,” he says.

O’Leary is keen to engage with a local tourism industry he describes as, “diverse and universally passionate.”

“We have no intention of duplicating the successful programs of existing local tourism organisations within our Local Government Areas (LGAs),” Mr O’Leary says.

Goulburn's St Saviour Cathedral. Source: Goulburn Cathedral
Goulburn’s St Saviour Cathedral. Source: Goulburn Cathedral

“I understand and respect the diverse range of experiences on offer across the region and the importance of supporting, not disrupting, the existing well-regarded tourism bodies that exist.

“The aim of Destination Southern NSW is to add value that brings clear benefits measured over the medium term by increased visitation and spending,” he explains.

“How this is best achieved will be identified quickly through the establishment of a communication and collaboration framework with existing peak tourism bodies and the leadership of LGAs across our region.”

When reflecting on his capacity to cover such a large territory with numerous stakeholder groups, O’Leray touched on his time leading the organisation of the 2009 World Master Games in Sydney.

An event that wrangled over thirty thousand athletes from over 100 countries covering 30 sports at 80 venues around the Sydney metropolitan area and beyond.

Bermagui Harbour with Gulaga looking on. Source: Sapphire Coast Tourism
Bermagui Harbour with Gulaga looking on. Source: Sapphire Coast Tourism

“It was a great privilege and wonderful experience to have led the organisation from the time Sydney was awarded the Games through until the post-event wind-up,” Mr O’Leary says.

“As CEO I am proud of what our team of over 60 staff and some 5000 volunteers achieved.

“Working effectively with a great board, dealing with twelve Local Government Areas and selling Sydney and New South Wales to the world were fundamental responsibilities I enjoyed and will bring those experiences to Destination Southern NSW.”