Tourism operators on the Sapphire Coast have gathered for the launch of the industry’s plan for growth.
Over 1 million visitors were drawn to the Bega Valley in the year ending June 2018, spending $499 million. The industry generates 3,500 local jobs and has a multiplier effect in the wider regional economy of 1.9, so for every $1 a tourist spends, another 90 cents is generated somewhere else in the economy.
Developed by Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing and Bega Valley Shire Council with the assistance of the NSW and Commonwealth governments, the platform paper was launched at Tathra’s Kianinny Bush Cabins before a happy crowd of accommodation providers, cafe and restaurant owners, experience providers and local attractions.
The vision – “Sapphire Coast is a compelling year-round tourism destination, offering internationally competitive, unique, and immersive world-class, nature-based experiences.” Supported by “passionate chefs and artisans” as well as “warm and welcoming locals” and “festivals to celebrate this unique place.”
In support of the idea, Jan Hutton, General Manager of Marketing with Destination NSW kicked off her high heels in support of the down to earth, relaxed appeal of the region and the people gathered.
“This is a really well considered and cohesive vision that is going to deliver something into the future that is really achievable,” Ms Hutton says.
The document includes a SWOT analysis compiled in conjunction with industry and community stakeholders looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to the Sapphire Coast tourism offering:
Strengths – proximity to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra; pristine natural environment; temperate climate; broad appeal; Merimbula Airport and Port of Eden.
Weaknesses – low standard of current accommodation; shortage of export-ready online bookable products; no suitable conferencing facilities; unsealed roads to National Parks; lack of awareness in Sydney market; local of competitive airfare prices.
Opportunities – Light to Light Walk development; Aboriginal tourism development; Sydney-Melbourne drive market; improved signature events; cruise ship itineraries.
Threats – neighbouring regions with similar offerings; low cost – high appeal overseas destinations; balancing increased visitors with management of natural environment.
Developing more products and experiences is a massive part of any future growth according to Ms Hutton, “those moments – that’s what brings people back, that’s what creates a positive review.”
“I could put up a billboard on the highway saying – go here and experience this. But if somebody that you know says – I went there and it was magnificent you’ve gotta go. You are going to go there.
“That has become such an important currency in driving tourism nowadays.”
Ms Hutton also applauded efforts to take a more collaborative industry approach, rather than the competitive, combative attitudes that might have been a feature of the past and she called on those gathered to dig deeper.
“There has got to be more than beautiful beaches, you have got to be able to find the DNA of your place,” she says.
“What differentiates you? A beach is not going to do it.”
For added inspiration Sarah McDougall, Owner of Lake George Winery near Canberra spoke of her passion. In the last 12 months, Gourmet Traveller named the Lake George Winery cellar door its “best with food”.
“We had to think about – apart from drinking wine what else can we offer?” Ms McDougall says.
“We love hiking on our 300 acres, so we now offer hiking, you can bring your dog too.
“We love picking and stomping grapes so hey – we’ll charge you to pick grapes for us! You can stomp all you want, you can drink some wine you can eat, then I’ll give you a bottle of that wine so you have bragging rights at a dinner party.”
Ms McDougall encouraged local operators to work together and look for ways to help visitors enjoy “what you love about this place.” A message that aligns with the themes of the ‘Sapphire Coast – Vision and Platform for Growth’ document.
Some of the actions in the document include:
- Improve and grow industry experiences and operator skills to improve competitiveness.
- Focus resources on encouraging visitation in the shoulder season.
- Partner with neighbouring destinations to create marketing efficiencies.
- Exploit growing cruise visitation.
- Position Sapphire Coast as the preferred coastal experience for international visitors via Canberra.
- Support signature event development.
The full document can be downloaded from the Sapphire Coast website.
Region Media’s Ian Campbell acted as one of the emcees for the launch event.