Limestone Coast Tourism

28 Nov 2012 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Tourism on the subject of Limestone Coast Tourism.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Limestone Coast Tourism body was formed in the early 1980s, with over 300 members in the 1990s at its peak. This body represented tourism within the Limestone Coast area, marketing and promoting the region with financial assistance from the state government. For the year ending June 2012, the Limestone Coast region attracted nearly 600,000 overnight visitors, who stayed a total of 1.946 million nights. In comparison, Kangaroo Island had had 121,000 overnight visitors, who stayed a total of 407,000 nights.

Following the release of the Destination Action Plan 2011, a new funding model was launched which saw the state government allocate only $10,000 towards the Limestone Coast Tourism promotion. At the same time, the government announced $23.7 million for Kangaroo Island, with $6 million allocated towards marketing alone.

The Limestone Coast region's Destination Action Plan 2012-15 prioritised 17 actions which were constructed with the assistance of Limestone Coast Tourism. The body was also identified by SATC as responsible in assisting in the implementation of many of these actions. However, with the cut in government funding, the Limestone Coast Tourism body publicly indicated in October that consideration was being undertaken to dismantle the body, and a meeting was held last month to consider a motion. A week later, in The Border Watch of 24 October, the minister stated she was '...disappointed that I didn't hear earlier of the Limestone Coast Tourism decision to dissolve'. Further, she went on to say:

I would have welcomed the opportunity to meet with the chairwoman to work through the issues.

On 15 November, it was reported that Limestone Coast Tourism officially dissolved on 13 November, nearly four weeks after their original meeting, with all financial matters expected to be resolved in the new year. My questions are:

1.Did the minister attempt to contact Limestone Coast Tourism in the lead-up to their 13 November meeting and, if so, what options did she float to keep the organisation going?

2.Without the assistance of Limestone Coast Tourism, can the minister explain how she expects the destination action plan to be implemented?

3.Will the role of the tourism development officer now be expanded and provided with greater support in order to fill the gap left by Limestone Coast Tourism?

4.What will happen with the organisation's assets, such as its photo gallery and website?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Status of Women) (14:31): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. Indeed, my understanding is that the Limestone Coast Tourism authority is a membership-based regional tourism association. They are independent bodies, and they are generally made up of local tourism operators which cooperate together to coordinate tourism activities across the region.

As an outcome of the changes to regional tourism in 2011, the South East Local Government Association, which formerly provided its funding for general regional tourism to the Limestone Coast Tourism organisation, redirected its funding towards the employment of a person who is focused specifically on developing product, and that person is located in the RDA of the Limestone Coast office. The outcome was that Limestone Coast Tourism, which had previously drawn on the services of regional tourism staff, was required to run in a self-sustainable way.

I am advised that the Limestone Coast Tourism membership base has dropped considerably over a number of years and has proven to be now too small to be viable, at about 36 members, I think it is, from across the Limestone Coast tourism industry, to sustain the organisation. As I said, these are generally private sector operators that are working to advance their businesses. The SATC does provide assistance.

The SATC continues a very strong engagement with the Limestone Coast tourism sector, and it has developed a destination action plan, in close consultation with regional stakeholders, including the South East LGA, RDA Limestone Coast and Limestone Coast Tourism. My understanding is that funds were made available from SATC to assist in the development of those DAPs.

This has resulted in a 17-point plan, which is very powerfully shaping the commitment of resources from all parts of the SATC to projects aimed at growing tourism expenditure in the region. SATC staff are already engaged in developing accommodation and new experiences, developing a regional brand and building it into the commission's very much strengthened regional marketing program. The SATC, in particular, is in close engagement with the region and other SA and Victorian regions in developing the Melbourne to Adelaide touring route. The SATC is closely engaged in this effort at all times with the region's tourism industry development officer and, through her, key funding and supporting stakeholders.

The SATC regrets—and so do I—the demise of Limestone Coast Tourism. However, self-sustaining industry associations do operate in many other regions of South Australia, and the challenge of maintaining such a regional association for the Limestone Coast region has to be one best addressed by the industry in the region. Either they are prepared to indicate support for and partnership in the group or they are not and, in this case, clearly, many have indicated that they are not.

In 2010-11 the South Australian Tourism Commission undertook a major review of regional tourism arrangements under the Regional Tourism Growth Plan, the first review like that for many decades. The review led to major changes in regional structure that commenced in July 2011 and the development of a destination action plan (DAP), which outlines the 17 key actions designed to boost visitation to the Limestone Coast region; and SATC resourcees, obviously, will be directed towards achieving those outcomes that are identified on that DAP.

The DAP builds on the Regional Tourism Growth Plan, which has seen a redistribution of funding invested in the Limestone Coast region under the new funding model. SATC invests $10,000 annually to the operations of the RDA Limestone Coast and significant funds into marketing activities to directly increase visitation through things like the Best Backyard campaign.

The regional consortium of Limestone Coast councils decided, as I said, to redirect that $10,000 to the Limestone Coast RDA rather than Limestone Coast Tourism, and SATC and I, obviously, have to respect the South East LGA's decision to direct that funding in the way that it sees fit—and obviously the RDA in its work—to continue to develop the strengths and opportunities from within that region.