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

Kids and convicts shape new Nimmitabel playground

Hanging around in Nimmitabel's new playground. Photo from NAG Facebook
Hanging around in Nimmitabel’s new playground. Photo from NAG Facebook

A new playground is turning heads at Nimmitabel on the eastern edge of the Monaro.

The bubblegum coloured update sits side by side with an existing ‘old school’ playground that has been there for at least 40 year according to Vickie Pollard, President of the Nimmitabel Advancement Group.

Using money from the Boco Rock Community Enhancement Fund, a climbing frame, rope net, and rock wall have been installed along with a spring loaded motorbike and seesaw and raised stepping stones.

“We haven’t had new equipment for such a long time, all the local children are very excited,” Vickie says.

The thumbs up for some of the kids who helped design the playground. Photo from NAG Facebook
The thumbs up for some of the kids who helped design the playground. Photo from NAG Facebook

“The playground also encourages visitors to stop, have a picnic lunch, get some nice food from up the street, it gets people to stop and enjoy Nimmitabel.”

The kids of this town of 224 people had input into the design and the equipment that was chosen, while inmates from Cooma Correctional Centre worked as part of the crew with Snowy Monaro Regional Council installing the new pieces.

Snow that could start falling any day now will add an extra dimension to this new attraction. It’s a space that has seen many happy times in winters past; on the handful of days snow does settle on the ground in Nimmitabel, this playground has offered a cheap and quick snow experience for kids from the coast.

And more so this winter!

Families with a connection to this spot at the northern end of town, just off the Monaro Highway will be pleased to know the old swings, steel slippery dip, and carousel remain.

Hang on, the new spring loaded seesaw. Photo from NAG Facebook
Hang on, the new spring loaded seesaw. Photo from NAG Facebook

At a time when many older parks are being pulled out, Nimmitabel has been able to hang on to its ‘old-school’ playground while getting an upgrade.

Vickie beams as she explains that all the older gear met current regulations, so was allowed to stay.

“And once the old gear gets a coat of paint, in the same purple and orange as the new gear, they’ll be brand new too,” Vickie says.

There’s more to come though.

Nimmitabel Lions Club has received funding to install tables, chairs, and shade, and there’s talk of a barbecue.

“And hopefully, a few years down the track we might be able to get funding for a flying-fox,” Vickie says.

 

“The best summer ever” at Tathra Beach – Tony McCabe, lifeguard

Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach
Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach

The final days of the 2016/17 summer on Tathra Beach have been some of the season’s best, perhaps ‘the best ever’ according to longtime lifeguard Tony McCabe.

The water temp through most of January and February sat at around 21-22 degrees.

“We’ve had the best water temperature I can remember in 25 years,” Tony says.

Tony struggles to remember just how many summers he’s seen on the clean sands of Tathra, but thinks it’s about 41.

“For a couple of years I was down at Aslings Beach, I’ve had a season at Main, and I’ve done a few up at Camel Rock, but Tathra is my favourite,” Tony says.

Tex Glover was the man that started Tony’s professional career on the beach.

“He use to actually sleep in the surf club, he’d get up in the morning, sometimes a bit late and as young guys we’d come and put the flags out for Tex,” Tony remembers.

“He was a bit of a legend down here at the time and I sort of hung out with Tex for a fair while and then took over the mantle from him.”

Tony believe’s Tex is still going strong and is fitter than ever living in Canberra.

When Tony did his first patrol at around the age of 18, the belt and reel were still being used to rescue swimmers from the surf.

“You had to be a very strong swimmer because a lot of times you were towing 150 – 200 metres of line behind you.

“Then the guys on the reel would have to pull you back in, the guys on the line had to be strong as well,” Tony explains.

Like old Tex Glover before him, at almost 60 Tony is now inspiring the next generation of lifeguards.

“I enjoy training other guards and keeping the standard up.

“I just like to see the young people coming through, they’re enthusiastic and I just hope I can implant a little bit of my wisdom into them,” Tony says.

Click play, Tony talks about his time on Tathra Beach and what to do with blue bottle stings…

 

While keeping the public safe is the thrust of the job, Tony and his young team this summer have also become tourism ambassadors pointing people towards good coffee and a feed.

“It’s a great beach where you can meet people and tell’em a little bit about the area,” Tony says.

“A lot of families come back here, they just book year after year.

“All the locals embrace the tourists that come down here, it’s a really friendly area,” Tony says.

That relaxed easy approach can also open up discussion around surf safety.

“With rips, if they (swimmers) don’t know, they come down to the beach, they have a look at the big waves, and they see the calmer water, and think we’ll stay away from the big waves and jump in the calmer waters,” Tony says.

Tathra Beach looking north.
Tathra Beach looking north.

Not realising that the calmer water is often the rip.

“We’ve had a fair few overseas people here this year and they have just had no idea, and they have really appreciated that we have pointed out where the rip is,” Tony says.

The laid back look and nature of the paid and volunteer lifeguards at Tathra masks the dramatic twists and turns their day can take at any time.

“Sometimes the days you think are going to be your calmest, you have issues,” Tony says.

Tragically this summer a rock fisherman from Canberra died after being swept off rocks to the south of Tathra beach at Kianinny. Being a Saturday volunteers were on duty and responded.

“We have had to hop in the rescue boat and shoot down to Games Bay down near Wallagoot, where someone walking with their wife and baby trod on a stingray and couldn’t go anywhere so we had to go down and assist them.”

Over the years Tony also recalls drownings at the Bega River mouth, rescues at Nelson’s Beach 8km north of Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club, boats that break down, injuries at the nearby skate bowl, and heart attacks at the bowling club across the road.

“Only on Friday we had a lady bring a baby in from Turingal Head who had been stung by a blue bottle, and someone said get down to Tathra, the lifeguards are on duty during February, and she was ecstatic that we were able to help,” Tony explains.

“It’s not just sitting looking at the water, it’s all those other things that happen while you are down here.”

One of the big talking points of summer 2016/17 was the shape and look of Tathra Beach following June’s East Coast Low.

The wide strip of golden sand in front of the surf club was sucked away, creating an amphitheater overlooking the red and yellow flags and reducing the space people could claim as their own.

“We were really worried when we first started patrol, at high tide there is very little beach in front of the surf club,” Tony says.

“We were worried people would move further up the beach (away from the flags) where there is more room.”

Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job
Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job

To Tony’s relief most people this year did the right thing and swum between the flags even though they were pushed further up the beach.

This bronzed, buff veteran is confident the beach will recover from being chewed up by the storms of June.

“It will come back, but it will be over a long period,” Tony says.

Generally Tony describes Tathra as a pretty safe beach.

“Down in the corner we normally have a reasonably sized sandbar, and even though we do get north-east winds that blows in a bit of a swell, we get a southerly change and the swell only lasts for maybe one of two days and it levels out,” Tony explains.

“As you get further round towards the Country Club or further up the beach it’s a lot more dangerous, down in the corner it’s usually pretty safe.”

With the days of summer starting to shorten, Tony is called south again to Melbourne and his regular job as a carpenter.

Born and bred not too far from the Bega Swimming Pool, Tony is already preparing for his 42nd Tathra summer.

“We’ll be back up at Easter, followed by the yearly lifeguard testing in December.

“You jump in the water, it’s sunny, it’s clear, you have a swim around, and you get out, the salt water, it’s a fantastic feeling,” Tony says.

 

 

Disclaimer: Author is currently contracted to Tathra Chamber of Commerce