The Grafton Regional Gallery contains a fully accredited and signposted visitor information centre that operates seven days a week and is funded by Clarence Valley Council.
The Grafton Regional Gallery contains a fully accredited and signposted visitor information centre that operates seven days a week and is funded by Clarence Valley Council. Clarence Valley Council

Council hits back at claims it's neglecting tourist services

Claims council neglecting tourist services

IN JANUARY I sent a number of emails to the general manager and mayor of Clarence Valley Council covering a number of issues of concern, including CVC management of local tourism services.

As a result I was invited to a meeting with Mayor Jim Simmons and acting GM Troy Anderson in Maclean on January 15.

During the meeting I challenged the mayor to nominate one thing the council's Economic Development Unit had handled successfully for local tourism since the EDU replaced the industry-based Clarence River Tourist Association in 2013.

He couldn't name one - but he said it really didn't matter because the Christmas holiday period proved that tourists come here anyway.

He said the important issue was that the council had reduced spending on tourism to just $270,000 a year.

When the new Special Rate Variation takes full effect, CVC will be taking a sum of about $250,000 a year from local businesses via the Tourism Differential Rate that was approved in 1990 to pay for staffing the South Grafton Visitor Information Centre (they now treat that money as General Rate Income).

So, effectively, CVC is contributing almost nothing to local tourism services.

Virtually every other regional council in the developed world recognises that their primary responsibility is to provide a Visitor Information Centre and information services for visitors once they arrive in their Local Government Area.

This council has sold off all the assets and destroyed all the hard work so many local people put into local tourism over many decades.

I have tried to keep the community (and the councillors) informed and I must have been successful as acting GM Troy Anderson directed that CVC will not respond to any outstanding, current or future questions that I may direct to the council regarding local tourism.

So much for the democratic rights of a resident/ratepayer in the Clarence Valley.

Bill Day, Yamba

Mayor defends move to digital promotion

Dear Sir

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to another letter from Bill Day critical of the council's tourism services.

As a general rule I don't respond to letters to the editor, preferring to let members of the public express their views. However I feel the ongoing nature of Bill's commentary calls for a response in this instance.

I have great respect for Bill and the work he did in the tourism industry. He was and remains a passionate advocate for tourism and was no doubt a leader in that field 20 years ago.

But I cannot agree with his assessment of current tourism promotion in the Clarence Valley and am disappointed he has chosen to single out council staff for mention in his disparaging letter.

Bill is critical of the council's decision to move towards digital tourism promotion and away from the bricks-and-mortar facilities that were once the cornerstone of tourism promotion.

He is entitled to make the point - as he has done many times - but he needs to be aware this is a decision of councillors, not staff, and if he feels the need to be critical his comments should be directed towards the elected body. Staff members are simply following the instructions of councillors and should not be criticised for that.

Twenty years ago the visitor information centres in South Grafton and Maclean were the primary means for people to get information about tourism facilities in the Clarence Valley. Those centres were very expensive to operate and based on printed material that had to be hand-delivered and Bill used them well.

But times have moved on. Visitor information centres and printed material are no longer the primary source of information for tourists. We are now living in a digital age. By far the majority now use digital and hand-held devices to research their holiday destinations and make their bookings, so that isnow the prime focus of the council's tourism effort - as it should be.

That's not to say providing visitor information from physical facilities is not valuable, which is why we have a fully accredited and signposted visitor information centre at the Grafton Regional Gallery that operates seven days a week and information hubs in council offices in Grafton and Maclean, Grafton library, Clarence Valley Regional Airport, Ferry Park in Maclean and Calypso Holiday Park in Yamba.

Visitor information staff have been located at Calypso in Yamba during the Christmas holidays, as well as taking the mobile visitor information van to events.

The council is taking information services to places where visitors can speak with a local, not where we are servicing passing traffic or visitors to other centres. Businesses recognise the benefit of bringing visitors into the CBD.

Independent tourism information data shows the Clarence Valley has increased its share of visitations which, in turn, shows we are getting it generally right. That view is reinforced by anecdotal evidence from tourism providers, many of whom say they have just had their best-ever tourism season.

As we have seen from media reports, tourism on the North Coast is going strongly.

Jim Simmons

Mayor

Clarence Valley Council



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