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Doors to close on Sapphire Coast Tourism after $$$ clash with Council

By Ian Campbell 13 April 2018
The ‘unspoilt’ Sapphire Coast. Photo: SCT.

The ‘unspoilt’ Sapphire Coast. Photo: SCT.

The board of Sapphire Coast Tourism (SCT) have voted to wind up the organisation on June 30 unable to work with the budget direction of Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC).

For almost a decade, SCT has been responsible for promoting and maximising tourism opportunities between Bermagui and the Victorian border. Their current core budget of $386,000 comes from Council with a mandate to plan and implement marketing and promotion, provide strategic direction, and vision for the $782 million Bega Valley tourist industry.

Additional funds are added through successful State and Commonwealth Government grants and projects.

Managed by Executive Officer, Anthony Osborne, under a volunteer board of directors led by Chair, Bruce Leaver, SCT claim a number of key wins including a 5% increase in visitor nights since 2013 and a 12% increase in tourist spending for the same period.

Tenders are open until May 2 for Council’s next tourism marketing contract, but at their April 9 meeting, the SCT board said they were unable to tender for a renewed contract.

In a letter written to Mayor, Kristy McBain but leaked to About Regional, Mr Leaver writes, “It was felt that it would be unconscionable to submit a proposal [tender].”

Surprisingly the tender documents prepared by Council for the open market point to a budget of $327,000, including $99,000 to be allocated to Visitor Information Centres.

Beautiful Bermagui. Photo: SCT

Beautiful Bermagui. Photo: SCT

The thrust of Mr Leaver’s letter to the Mayor is that $327,000 is not enough to do the job.

Prior to the tender process, SCT provided advice to Council suggesting ‘bare bones’ funding of $390,000, CPI adjusted each year for the next 10. Additionally, SCT presented an option where Council’s allocation topped $640,000 a year.

The higher figure would allow SCT to, “properly engage with the icon inbound tourism strategies – Sydney to Melbourne Touring, Canberra International Airport, development of regional partnerships in Southern Destination Network, and expand engagement with Eurobodalla and East Gippsland,” Mr Leaver writes.

“$640,000 is still about one-third of the amount allocated by Eurobodalla [Shire Council],” Mr Leaver writes in a supporting document.

“For every $1 BVSC invest in SCT the regional economy benefits by about $190.”

Council’s General Manager, Leanne Barnes says, “SCT is an amazing organisation that has achieved excellent outcomes for the local tourism industry and for the Shire more broadly.”

“We respect the decision made by the SCT board and thank the organisation for their collective commitment and professionalism,” Ms Barnes says.

“Over the past several years SCT have applied for, and been successful in gaining additional Council contributions from the general fund, however, the elected Council has clearly indicated that 2017/18 represents the last year of this extended funding.

“The very tight current fiscal climate is imposing a severe discipline on the current 2018-19 budget preparation, with additional funds for tourism development just one of the many worthwhile calls on Council’s limited resources,” she says.

“What we would like to support and what we are actually able to do will drive some very hard budgetary decisions.

“I am confident that whoever is chosen to deliver these services moving forward will be able to build on the strategic positioning established by Sapphire Coast Tourism,” Ms Barnes says.

Ben Boyd's Tower, south of Eden, the start of the Light to Light Walk. Photo: SCT.

Ben Boyd’s Tower, south of Eden, the start of the Light to Light Walk. Photo: SCT.

In an earlier submission to Council, Mr Leaver points to the challenges ahead for any new promotions organisation, “An over-reliance on the domestic market. Domestic tourism in NSW is projected to grow by only 0.9%, [compared to] international tourism by 9%.”

“A heavy reliance on peak-summer beach recreation visitation.

“Very poor visitor infrastructure in national parks, particularly vehicle access,” he writes.

While SCT has indicated they will cease trading on June 30, the actual date still needs to be determined based on an assessment of the funds needed to meet liabilities, particularly staff entitlements.

Mr Leaver suggests that Council needs to turn its mind to how it might manage a number of current SCT programs including the Tathra Bushfire Recovery Marketing Program, Cruise Eden, Commonwealth Regional Jobs and Investment Packages, and the Port of Eden Activation Project.

“At the close of SCT trading the website will be taken down and social media closed,” Mr Leaver writes to the Mayor.

“SCT would be pleased to assist with transition as far as practicable, including handover to any service provider.”

Leanne Barnes says tenders received will be assessed and presented to councillors at their May 23 meeting.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT

What's Your Opinion?

9 Responses to Doors to close on Sapphire Coast Tourism after $$$ clash with Council

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Julie Pennefather 12:23 am 17 Apr 18

As an accommodation provider in the Bega Valley Shire Council I can only speak very highly of all the wonderful work SCT has done over the last couple of years to steadily build up the branding, recognition and YES business for the tourism industry. We have seen a steady increase in occupancy over the last 3 years thanks to their initiative and hard work all on a ridiculously small amount of funding. I cannot believe the BVSC and our local councilors have so little foresight and obviously so little knowledge of the industry. It is the only industry of any significance in our Shire and a huge employer for our Shire's residents.

I can't believe that any person who resides in the Bega Valley has not noticed how much busier it has been over the last two seasons or the increase in overseas visitors to our Shire. I would totally dispute any figures suggesting otherwise and I am sure the majority of all tourist operators would agree.

Jamie 9:29 pm 14 Apr 18

We could double their funding if Forest Corp NSW paid BVSC rates.

Fraser Buchanan 1:07 pm 14 Apr 18

The Bega valley shire residents and ratepayers association has had plenty to say about the financial abuse perpetrated against ratepayers by both council & SCT over the past decade & stands by its analysis, which neither council nor SCT has bothered to try & repudiate; instead only prepared to launch slings & arrows or say nothing, in the hope the “it will all go-away”.

As usual SCT offers no evidence in support of its statistical claims & anyone who would like to check them for themselves can access the latest statistics on council’s website, which confirm that in the four years from 2012/2013 to 2015/2016, visitor nights actually declined by 24,624, from 2082446 to 2057822, or 1% (see here https://economy.id.com.au/bega-val…/tourism-visitors-nights…)

As for SCT’s claim that there has been a 12% increase in tourism spending over the same period, again the statistics on council’s website clearly show otherwise, with Output/Sales increasing by only $6.2m, from $262.6m to $268.8m, or only 2%, over the same period (see here https://economy.id.com.au/bega-valley/tourism-value…).

The numbers make it clear that SCT’s claims are self-serving & literally worthless, while council’s performance is even worse, as evidenced by the fact that it can’t even confirm the total amount of ratepayers’ funds that it has handed to SCT over the past 10 years, let alone confirm with any certainty where that money has been spent & for what demonstrable benefit to the community.

If SCT is so convinced of its capabilities, why wouldn’t it stand-up & compete for the right to represent the industry in the market-place?”

John Richardson - Secretary/Treasurer BVSRRA 6:30 am 14 Apr 18

As usual, SCT offers no evidence in support of its claims & anyone who would like to check them for themselves can access the latest statistics on council’s website, which confirm that in the fur years from 2012/2013 to 2015/2016, visitor nights actually declined by 24,624, from 2082446 to 2057822, or 1% (see here https://economy.id.com.au/bega-valley/tourism-visitors-nights?Tourismtype=2)

As for SCT’s claim that there has been a 12% increase in tourism spending over the same period, again the statistics on council’s website clearly show otherwise, with Output/Sales increasing by only $6.2m, from $262.6m to $268.8m, or only 2%, over the same period (see here https://economy.id.com.au/bega-valley/tourism-value?Tourismtype=2).

The numbers make it clear that SCT’s claims are self-serving & literally worthless, while council’s performance is even worse, as evidenced by the fact that it can’t even confirm the total amount of ratepayers’ funds that it has handed SCT over the past 10 years, let alone confirm with any certainty where that money has been spent & for what demonstrable benefit to the community.

If SCT is so convinced of its capabilities, why wouldn’t it stand-up & compete for the right to represent the industry in the market-place?

Neil Thew 1:08 am 14 Apr 18

As a past EO of a regional tourism organisation, I understand the importance of Council’s working alongside an independent representative tourism body made up of key stakeholders. Council’s and for that matter the NSW government tend to think they can do a better job in developing and promoting regional tourism, however it needs to be a collaboration. To be successful, local industry input with specialist management, in concert with local and state government is required with a funding model aligned to this. It can’t be just the world according to government.

Well done SCT you’ve done an amazing job with very little funding.

Grant 11:56 am 13 Apr 18

Best of luck with that BVSC. Talk about penny wise pound foolish. You have successfully trashed 10 years of strategic positioning and the long term prospects of the shire's only viable industry. Take a bow.

    Fraser Buchanan 12:50 pm 14 Apr 18

    Blackmail! what a disgrace forcing the hand of Council like this , SCT do not deserve the contract' putting pressure on the ratepayers to dig deeper into their pockets to promote an industry that should be kicking the tin themselves, this amount of money could be picked up by anyone of the caravan parks without even blinking an eye , get real!

    Neale Whittard 3:14 am 16 Apr 18

    Fraser Buchanan, your comments are nothing short of a disgrace. Every single accommodation provider and tourism operator in the BVSC area already spend a small fortune on their own advertising as well-as propping-up the local Tourist Information Centres.. It is backwards thinking at its very worst to suggest that LESS be spent on tourism at a time when it has so much potential to go ahead. What other industries are going to employ our young people into the future? Shame on BVSC and their ill-conceived penny-pinching, and shame on you, Fraser Buchanan for encouraging such small-minded, short-sighted behavior from them!

    Julie Pennefather 12:30 am 17 Apr 18

    Your comments reflect very little knowledge of the Tourism Industry Fraser and certainly no knowledge of the work carried out by SCT and of the fact that all operators pay into SCT. Everyone in our Shire benefits from the Tourism Industry!

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