Motions: World Tourism Day

Wednesday November 07, 2018

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:56): I rise to support the member for Narungga's motion and highlight the Liberal government's commitment to growing the state's tourism sector, particularly through the Major Events Bidding Fund.

There is no doubt that tourism on the Limestone Coast in the South-East is very important. Over the last 16 to 17 years, we have seen a decline in state government interest in the promotion of the Limestone Coast. When I went back home in the early 2000s, I remember having four tourism officers working on tourism in the area of Mount Gambier and surrounds. At the moment, due to successive cuts, we are down to one.

I want to acknowledge Biddie Shearing, the Tourism Industry Development Manager for the LCLGA. The work she does and the workload she has is quite incredible. Through the SATC, she has a very good reputation working with businesses and stakeholders, including our councils, to make sure that our area receives as much support as it can and also that businesses are able to promote their attractions.

To give an example of that, we now have councils taking ratepayers' money and supporting tourism in our regions—a reduction in state government funding being picked up by ratepayers. Donna Foster, who is the tourism and economic development manager at the City of Mount Gambier, does an outstanding job. In fact, her energy and vibrancy is really pleasing and she is certainly the right fit for that position.

Groups have now formed, which is great. Kent Comley is the chair of Tourism Mount Gambier. Tourism Mount Gambier has the vision of Mount Gambier being recognised as a world-renowned destination, delivering a top-class visitor experience that ensures sustainable growth in the tourism economy of Mount Gambier. If you download Tourism Mount Gambier's Changing the Tourism Culture strategy, you will be very impressed with the level of work that Kent and his board have put together for this strategy and strategic direction.

Tourism Mount Gambier has commenced its journey towards their mandate to change the tourism culture and set a pathway towards achieving their goal of international recognition as a top tourism destination. Tourism Mount Gambier is now actively engaged with the broader business community as they drive the message that a stronger sustainable tourism sector is good for the entire Mount Gambier economy. Their goal is to develop a resilient tourism industry body that is recognised for its commitment towards the growth and promotion of the Mount Gambier and Limestone Coast visitor economy.

Through their strategic plan, they certainly highlight the value of tourism in the Limestone Coast. Visitor expenditure is $292 million, with a potential by 2020 to be $475 million. There are 550,000 overnight visitors per year and overnight international visitors are 8 per cent. Interstate visitors overnight—these are people staying overnight in the Limestone Coast—are 35 per cent, with 57 per cent being intrastate visitors. With the value of visitor nights at $1.77 million and with a direct employment of 1,800, this makes tourism one of our biggest employers in the area. It is a real credit to Kent Comley and his board.

To highlight what can be achieved, Kent and his board were successful in receiving $20,000 from the federal government, believe it or not, from the Building Better Regions Fund to develop a guide for Mount Gambier. It is estimated that this guide, which is a tourist guide for the region, will increase revenue by $2.9 million each and every year. It is focused on volcanoes, geology, history and guided tours of Mount Gambier.

In the past, we have certainly seen other regions benefit from state government investment, including Kangaroo Island, the Barossa and a range of other tourist regions. I can understand the concept that you want to land people in Adelaide from overseas and then promote regions that are one or two hours away, but I ask the state government to remember the Limestone Coast, which is more than two hours away, and to look to increase the tourism spend in my region so that we can contribute to the state's economy. The unique advantage, of course, of the Limestone Coast is its proximity to the Victorian border, and attracting Victorian money into the South Australian economy can only be a good thing.

It is pleasing to see the previous state government's investment in Generations in Jazz has been continued through the Liberal government, as well as a recent announcement on the Mount Gambier Fringe Festival. That is where I certainly support the events bid fund. Generations in Jazz, as I have spoken about for a long time, has seen 350 school bands competing on stage, international jazz stars selling out 600-seat concerts and accommodation booked right across our region.

Obviously, the state government will spend $10 million per year over the next four years to bid for major events and this is certainly very good news. Across the next two years, the state government will also spend $10 million on tourism marketing to showcase our state to key tourism markets, including China, the UK, the USA and New Zealand. I am asking that the Limestone Coast be included in those key spots that are promoted to our international tourists.

An excellent example of where all tiers of government work together—federal, state and local government—is the Port MacDonnell waterfront revitalisation project, a $1.2 million project co-funded by the state government, federal government and district council. This is aimed at increased signage, public art, and will open up economic and tourism opportunities for this coastal community, which is of course famous for our southern rock lobster.

I also want to make comment on and praise the work of June Kain. June has been in tourism for over 30 years in the Limestone Coast and what June does not know about tourism is probably not worth remembering. June has actually written a discussion paper for me about Limestone Coast branding and she makes some very interesting points. The Limestone Coast is almost equal in size to the combined regions of Adelaide, Adelaide Hills, Kangaroo Island, Fleurieu Peninsula, Barossa and Clare Valley. It is one of the issues that we have in branding the Limestone Coast: it is just so large an area and so diverse.

June's suggestion is to actually split the Limestone Coast into four regions but maintain the Limestone Coast element: Limestone Coast, Penola and Coonawarra; Limestone Coast coastal areas; Limestone Coast Tatiara; and Limestone Coast, Mount Gambier and District or Blue Lake. Naracoorte Lucindale could be deemed Limestone Coast world heritage caves and wetlands, and of course Limestone Coast Blue Lake region would be ours. I think there are some very good points in this and I commend June for taking the time to write to me and put this discussion paper together.