Bob Thompson, life member of the Clarence River Tourist Association.
Bob Thompson, life member of the Clarence River Tourist Association.

Life member recalls bad old days

FLOODS, amalgamation and a technology boom – Bob Thompson in his involvement with the Clarence River Tourist Association has seen it all.

His 25 years spent on the board of the CRTA, including 10 as president, was acknowledged last week when he was awarded a life membership of the association.

“I moved to the area in 1978 and joined the CRTA in the early 80s, mostly to help the community promote their region,” he said.

The interest in the community no doubt extends from his other life in law, both of which he said are about the ‘fabric of society’.

“In the early 80s, tourism was low down on the councils’ priority list and we would go around to hotels and businesses, cup in hand to get funding,” Mr Thompson said.

In those days, the CRTA ran ‘on a single light bulb’ in the old police station in Victoria Street, Grafton and would print out black and white tourism brochures, one by one, promoting the five council areas that existed.

“The CRTA was really a forerunner to amalgamation,” Mr Thompson said.

“There were almost ‘stand-up brawls’ and I spent a lot of time keeping it together between the councils,” he said, citing diplomacy as one of his major roles during his time with the tourist association.

A new flood-resistant visitor information centre at Grafton and then at Maclean, the launch of CRTA on-line and the growth of tourism in the Valley from $52 million a year in 1988 to more than $240 million by the time he left, is Mr Thompson’s legacy to the CRTA.

CRTA president Mark Aston described Mr Thompson’s service to the organisation as ‘immense’.

“He’s overseen the association in our growing period and through turbulent times when we faced funding crisis,” Mr Aston said.

Although formally retired from the tourism game, Mr Thompson maintains that ‘every tourist that comes here adds to the viability and prosperity of the Valley’.

He hoped not to offend when he said that his favourite place in the Clarence Valley is Minnie Water.



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