The South Burnett Regional Council has voted to leave the Tourism Queensland network and give its staff – and local tourism operators – the chance to prove they can do a better job

August 16, 2017

The South Burnett Regional Council will pull out of the Southern Queensland Country regional tourism organisation.

At Wednesday’s monthly meeting, Councillors voted unanimously to discontinue the region’s membership of Southern Queensland Country RTO.

The Council will put its $60,000 per year SQCT payment into Economic Development Officer Craig Tunley’s budget instead.

Mr Tunley, who holds a business degree majoring in tourism development, recently challenged local tourism operators to triple average tourist spending over the next three years.

Mayor Keith Campbell said the extra money put into Mr Tunley’s budget would be “contestable”.

This meant the recently incorporated Visit South Burnett local tourism organisation would be able to bid for funding alongside Mr Tunley’s own plans.

But Southern Queensland Country will be locked out of any funding bids.

The Council’s motion effectively overturns its decision in February last year to adopt a three-year tourism strategy.

That strategy called for the South Burnett to work closely with Southern Queensland Country and its parent body, Tourism and Events Queensland, to grow the region’s tourism numbers.

However, the decision to pull out of the Tourism Queensland network is a fillip for Visit South Burnett, which will now have the opportunity to demonstrate its belief a local tourism group can perform better than the regional tourism organisation.

It is also a strong uptick for the council’s new Economic Development Officer who will now have the opportunity to execute his plan to increase tourism revenues.

Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff said she thought the decision to pull out of the Tourism Queensland network was sound, given the agitation Council had received from some tourism operators this year.

However, she thought the Council’s motion could have been better phrased to make its intent to expand the Economic Development Officer’s budget clearer.

Southern Queensland Country CEO Mary-Clare Power said she had been informed of the South Burnett Regional Council’s intention last week.

While she was disappointed with the decision, she had already spoken with all Southern Queensland Country’s South Burnett members and assured them her organisation’s support for their businesses would continue.

“Our existing marketing partners see value in what we do and we have let them know our assistance will not be affected by the Council’s decision,” she said.

Ms Power said she had a good relationship with South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell and hoped that would continue into the future.

The South Burnett had often been held up to other councils by Southern Queensland Country as an example of a hard-working, proactive council and she hoped that would continue as well.

Ms Power also applauded Mr Tunley’s plan and wished him every success in implementing it.

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