WAR OF WORDS
By BELINDA SCOTT
BROCHURE wars have broken out in the NSW tourism industry with two major Sydney visitor information centres refusing to stock brochures from regional NSW towns, unless they pay handsomely for the privilege.
Two major Sydney centres have advised they will stock free of charge only one brochure for each region, which means for this area a single brochure to cover the region from Port Stephens to Red Rock and west to Dorrigo, known as Tourism Mid North Coast.
The move has outraged Coffs Coast tourism representatives, who say Sydney is a vital shopfront and the gateway to the whole State and the $1000 cost to pay for space is out of their reach. Tourism is considered the Coffs Coast's major industry.
Others are even more upset that Tourism NSW, a government body supposed to look after the whole State, has taken the attitude that it is not their problem.
The 'paper war' brings to a head alarms raised years ago by country tourism groups when Tourism NSW closed the NSW Travel Centre in Sydney.
At that time, Tourism NSW assured country tourism associations they would retain free access to Sydney.
The chair of the NSW Council of Tourist Associations (CTA), Paul Page, said 10 months of pleas to Tourism NSW had failed to prevent the ban.
A month ago Mr Page appealed to NSW Premier Morris Iemma to intervene, saying NSW regions were already suffering from a drop in domestic tourism caused by high petrol prices, rising interest rates, extreme drought and competition from other States. Yesterday he said so far he had received only an acknowledgement of his letter.
A spokeswoman for Tourism NSW said the Sydney Airport VIC, still run by Tourism NSW, was continuing to stock brochures from regional NSW free of charge.
The manager of Coffs Harbour Visitor Information Centre (VIC) Brian Bowers, who also chairs the Tourism Mid North Coast marketing committee, said the ban was of great concern.
Mr Bowers said he was personally going to write to NSW Premier Morris Iemma to ask him to get the Sydney VICs to reconsider the ban.
"Sydney is the gateway to the regions ? they now wish to charge $1000 fees for brochure distribution and to go from nothing to $1000 is more than most towns can handle," he said.
The president of the Coffs Harbour Tourism Association, which represents the city's tourism operators, Susan Button, said the tourist association had major communication issues with Tourism NSW.
"We're the ones on the front line, but we're on the bottom of the drip-feed for information," she said. "It is essential to us to have the Coffs Coast books in major gateway areas."