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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”