August 4, 2017
The chairman of the newly formed Visit South Burnett Inc has responded forcibly to public comments about the new Local Tourism Organisation (LTO).
southburnett.com.au reader Bill Weir wrote in a comment: “Let me get this right: a recently incorporated organisation with no members, no apparent business plan, and no track history of completing even one successful tourism project wants long-term funding from Council? Excuse me … I must have blinked and woken up in Disneyland …”
In an open letter in reply, Visit South Burnett chairman Jason Kinsella, from Moffatdale Ridge winery, said the comments alluded to a “lack of reality”.
“Unfortunately tourism operators in the South Burnett have a very stark reality,” Jason wrote.
“This has been an ever-reducing number of tourism-based business, the real possibility of reducing staff numbers, of being subjected to the greatest drop in international visitors in Australia (according TRA numbers for 2016-17).
“I could talk about a continuing decline in numbers at tourism-based events across the region and an Easter weekend with at least three leading Kingaroy motels with not a single booking leading into what was once our busiest tourist weekend, and a Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) bereft of any ideas of how to turn this around. This is our reality, Bill.
“Just to correct the record. Firstly we have 10 members and are awash with local tourism operators desperate for a new direction forward who are willing to pay membership immediately.
“As far as a business plan goes, it is a pre-requisite of any proposed funding agreement with council that we supply a professionally constructed and costed business and marketing plan, which we have already commenced in advance.
“This stands in stark contrast to the blank cheque scenario offered to Southern Queensland Country Tourism for five years and lies at the very heart of the industry’s discontent with the RTO and the core of our tourism woes in the South Burnett.
“With regards to the Visit South Burnett Inc management committee’s ‘track history’.
“We have a combined 15 years of experience sitting on regional tourism boards, 35 years at LTO level and 180 years’ experience running extremely successful tourism businesses in the South Burnett.
“We operate a combined $15 million in tourism business assets with a combined turnover of $5 million per annum and directly employing 71 South Burnett residents with almost all profit returned to this region.
“Our management committee also has great experience with event management, having been heavily involved with highly successful events like the Bloomin’ Beautiful Blackbutt Festival and the Blackbutt Avocado Festival, Moffatdale Ridge Italian Festival and A Tuscan Feast, and Nanango Mardi Gras, the Police Charity Ball and the Kingaroy Friendship markets.
“The President of NaTDA sits on our committee, we have a member of the National Council of Women represented, a member of South Burnett and Cherbourg on Show Committee, the treasurer of QRRRWN (Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Woman’s Network), an award-winning host farm owner, secretary of the Burrandowan Picnic Races.
“A member of BIEDO also sits on VSB Inc board (and) we are also fortunate to have a grant writer as a member of the committee, so I believe any suggestion of lack of experience is not well founded.
“I do fully support your view that council and ratepayers’ funds must be used wisely, with rigorous checks and balances, and it must focus on a return on investment for ratepayers in a very sad environment where Mayor Keith Campbell and his council were left with little option but to offer forced redundancies to council staff.
“This was, by his own admission, in no small part due to a dramatic reduction in visitor numbers leading to a huge drop in income from the two Council-owned tourism assets (BP Dam and Boondooma Dam).
“I applaud the Council for taking the responsible position of exploring other options.
“Bill, we are not asking for anything new, the model we have proposed is not new to this council and is an everyday occurrence in every successful tourism region throughout Australia.
“We must create an environment where once again South Burnett tourism operators are able to market this amazing region to its full potential.
“If you have experience in tourism, we would welcome any suggestions you can offer.
“Visit South Burnett Inc has a volunteer-based management team whose sole focus is to create an environment where ratepayers receive an adequate return on their investment.
“Tourism operators can regain access and take advantage of a booming drive market and we can once again encourage tourism infrastructure investment by giving people the confidence to borrow money to invest, build and employ in this region.
“We had this environment once, we can have it again, but history has shown us it can only be achieved by people in our region working together and it being driven from the grassroots of the tourism industry.”