December 12, 2019
After several months of negotiations, South Burnett Regional Council will enter into a partnership arrangement with the Visit South Burnett local tourism organisation (LTO).
At Wednesday’s Council meeting, Councillors voted unanimously to adopt a formal partnership agreement with the LTO.
They also delegated final negotiations to CEO Mark Pitt, who said he expected the agreement would be signed before the end of the year.
The vote came after a public meeting held at Wooroolin Hall on Tuesday night.
The meeting was called by Discover South Burnett to report on Council’s tourism marketing efforts for the previous year and its plans for the year ahead, many of which have yet to be finalised.
The Wooroolin meeting was attended by several Councillors, Visitor Information Centre volunteers and local tourism operators.
At that meeting, Visit South Burnett president Jason Kinsella – who is also a member of the Council’s recently formed Tourism Advisory Committee – said all available data showed tourism in the region was in decline.
However, he believed this could be reversed if the Council adopted a model used in pre-amalgamation times when local Councils worked in partnership with the region’s tourism operators.
Mr Kinsella said in those days, the South Burnett Tourism Association (SBTA) used to struggle to find venues big enough to accommodate its meetings.
The number of local tourism-based operators was roughly double what it was today, and tourism played a much bigger role in the region’s economy than it presently does.
Mr Kinsella said the region’s tourism had boomed in the early 2000s when the South Burnett pulled out of the State Government’s bureaucratic regional tourism organisation (RTO) network and elected to “go it alone”.
He said operators flocked to SBTA meetings because they felt they had “ownership” of tourism marketing efforts, and they participated in cross-marketing efforts for the same reason.
This boom lasted for several years until the South Burnett Tourism Association was persuaded to rejoin the RTO network, at which point a slow and steady decline set in that ended with the SBTA’s dissolution in 2015.
Mr Kinsella said he believed a key lesson to be drawn from this was that tourism operators had several assets neither Regional Tourism Organisations nor Council staff had.
One was first-hand knowledge of what worked and what didn’t when it came to attracting tourists to visit the region.
Another was having “skin in the game” – the need to generate results in order to stay in business.
Mr Kinsella said Visit South Burnett had been discussing the need to return to co-operative partnership model ever since the South Burnett Regional Council pulled out of the RTO network in August 2017.
Council had opted to set up Discover South Burnett instead, but had since found this was not successful and was now prepared to consider other approaches.
Mr Kinsella said he was hopeful an agreement between both groups would lead to the reinvigoration of local tourism.