TIME FOR MORE TOURISTS? SDRC considers how to capitalise on the Southern Downs natural attractions.
TIME FOR MORE TOURISTS? SDRC considers how to capitalise on the Southern Downs natural attractions.

Tourism the ‘future of the Southern Downs’

TOURISM may take a different direction on the Southern Downs after federal government funding allowed the council to invest in a targeted events strategy plan.

Southern Downs Regional Council staff are set to seek professional help in coming weeks to determine the type of tourism events that will give the region the most bang for its buck.

SDRC CEO Jane Stroud said it would help council staff determine which projects receive funding, and which do not.

“That’s one of the challenges we’ve had for a long while,” Ms Stroud said.

“A lot of events write in to the council to ask for sponsorship or funding.

“We need to get clear on the type of event that really adds value, hits the right target market and we have the right sort of facilities for.”

The news comes as both Warwick and Stanthorpe become trending school holiday destinations, with interest increasing 480 per cent and 1030 per cent respectively, according to a recent report by Wotif.com.

Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi said the convenient location, natural attractions and mix of facilities gave the region an edge over its competitors.

“There’s plenty to do here,” he said.

“I think all of us need to start to pull the rope the same way, and get a bit aggressive and proud of what we have here and what we can do.

“And it can continue to flow on from there.”

The CEO said tourism was unlikely to ever overtake agriculture as the region’s leading employment industry, but there were significant benefits to ensuring its growth.

The industry currently accounts for about 6 per cent of the economy and, according to Visitor Information Centre statistics, visitor numbers are increasing each year.

“(Investing in tourism) helps to diversify the economy,” Ms Stroud said.

“It gives people off-farm income, it gives young people a chance to work in the hospitality industry, and just by having a multiple approach to different sectors of employment, you end up with a stronger economy.

“It will never (become larger than agriculture), but in a lot of ways it is the future of the region.”

But council will not be going it alone.

Staff expressed a desire to form working communities with key tourism leaders to ensure the best results for all involved.

“It would be awesome … so we’re not just sitting here making decisions around an events strategy without some of our lead events (planners), like people from Jumpers and Jazz and Apple and Grape,” Ms Stroud said.

“I would be keen to have them on a working group to help inform whatever professional we bring in.”