November 8, 2018
South Burnett tourism operators will hold a meeting in December to propose alternatives to the South Burnett Regional Council’s handling of tourism promotion over the past 15 months.
At a Tourism Review meeting held at the 1913 Council Chambers in Kingaroy on Thursday night, a dozen local tourism operators said they were disturbed about the path being pursued by Council since it split from the regional tourism organisation, Southern Queensland Country Tourism (SQCT), in August 2017.
The operators said they had received less than 24 hours notice of Thursday’s meeting – which was called to discuss marketing plans for the next 12 months – even though Economic Development Officer Craig Tunley admitted he had begun discussing it within Council a month ago.
They thought attendance would have been much higher if adequate notice had been given, and expressed their annoyance this had not happened.
The operators said they had just experienced one of the worst years local tourism had seen, and wanted to know where Council had spent the $60,000-a-year it formerly paid to belong to SQCT.
Mr Tunley said his office had spent:
Operators asked what happened to the remaining $5790.
Mr Tunley said Council had to spend $2000 to cancel its membership of SQCT, and the remaining funds had gone back into Council’s general revenue.
“Does this mean that in 12 months you couldn’t think of something to spend our $3790 on to promote local tourism?” South Burnett Wine Industry Association president Jason Kinsella asked.
Mr Tunley said he hadn’t used the excess money so it had been seconded for other purposes by Council at the end of the 2017-18 Budget period.
The “Let’s Go South Burnett” magazine also came under fire.
“Can you confirm to me that all of the names linked to the articles in that document are actually the person who wrote that article?” Mr Kinsella asked.
Mr Tunley replied no, he could not.
“So you lied? You misled? You made up names because it didn’t look good? That’s pretty disturbing,” Mr Kinsella said.
“No, they are not made-up names,” Mr Tunley replied. “They (the articles) are written by a ghost writer and it’s attributed to another name.”
“Did you feel the need to let anyone know that?” Mr Kinsella said.
“You have a ‘wine expert’ listed in there who is absolutely that – a ghost. I’ve searched for them and they don’t exist. And yet you have them there telling our visitors that they have a credibility they simply don’t have. That is misleading.”
Other criticisms were that unlike the well-established South Burnett Touring Guide, most operators had not been told about the project or given any opportunity to have a say in its content before it was produced.
Mr Kinsella said he had been told Tourism portfolio chair Cr Danita Potter had only received a copy of the magazine when it was on its way to the printers, and was denied any opportunity to have input into it herself.
He also knew most tourism operators were only asked for their opinion after almost all copies had been distributed.
The strongest criticism levelled at the publication was that it had picked “favourites” and promoted non-regional events such as the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival while ignoring the majority of the region’s operators and successful, long-established local events.
Quizzed about industry involvement, Mr Tunley agreed he had received little or no industry buy-in from local tourist operators over the past 12 months.
“So following on from that, the proposal that Visit South Burnett brought to you about an industry-based LTO (local tourism organisation) that would have worked with Council and would have been member-based … would it be fair to say that looking back that would have been a better idea?” Mr Kinsella asked.
Mr Tunley said that had not been his decision to make.
Mr Kinsella accused Council of cherry-picking a handful of operators and events to promote, sowing the seeds of division in the industry.
In the end, the meeting voted to reconvene in four weeks at Wooroolin Hall so local tourism operators could suggest a new path forward for 2019 in time to capitalise on the start of next year’s peak tourism season.
The meeting will be held at 6:00pm on Thursday, December 6.