Tourism or bust!

Friday 15 February 2013

Tourism or bust!

The Douglas Economic Development Group has warned any future local government not to take its eye off the ball when it comes to supporting the region's main source of income.

The DEDG, a 'think tank' consisting of representatives from local businesses, Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree, Douglas Chamber of Commerce, and council, believes any move to diversify the region's industry should not come at the expense of tourism.

According to the DEDG, there is at a minimum an 80 per cent reliance on the tourism industry, while agriculture contributes up to 20 per cent to the local economy.

The DEDG's Chairman, Martin Tranter, said that, regardless of the outcome of next month's referendum, the local government has to prove its commitment to the tourism and agriculture industries.

"Anything less than a 100 per cent prioritised commitment to bolstering the existing industry base of the region fails the reasonable expectations and viability of the greater majority of business in the Douglas region, and results in a lessening of our competitive edge in the long term," Mr Tranter said.

He said that while attracting new industry types to the region is desirable, any success in doing so is unlikely to change Douglas' reliance on tourism and agriculture for many years to come.

"Economic prosperity, including stable rent and property values throughout the Douglas region currently depends, and will continue to depend, upon the viability of the tourism and agricultural industries and the businesses servicing those industries.

"Douglas region tourism results in over $300 million per annum to the local economy. If the Douglas area is considered as a region, no other region in Australia in so dependent upon the tourism industry."

The DEDG believes future local government partnerships with the Douglas tourism industry must address the following:

  • The establishment of a tourism business levy or resourced local government funding sufficient to support destination marketing efforts;
  • A planned investment cycle which commits to significant improvement and beautification of public areas. Eg. Port Douglas waterfront project, the creation of water park assets which appeal to the tourist demographic of the region;
  • A commitment by Council to the tourism industry across the entire region and better cross-promotions with existing tourism operators such as the Mossman Gorge Centre;
  • A willingness and commitment by all councillors to consult with the business community of the Douglas region and build strategies based on this consultation.

Mr Tranter urged voters in the de-amalgamation referendum not to become "mired in short term rates increases discussions."

"This is the opportunity for businesses in the region to make a long term decision as to the local government which is most likely to support Douglas interests," he said.

“Failure to address the adequate resourcing and partnership of the tourism industry will be far more significant than any short term increases in rates or discussions as to community services.

"If business becomes unviable because we cannot compete as a tourist region with the likes of the Whitsundays or other premier destinations then make no mistake, the local regional economy will stagnate."

The DEDG called upon Cairns Regional Council and Friends Of Douglas Shire to publicise how they propose to commit to the tourism and agricultural industry.