Crowds pack out Woolgoolga during Curryfest.
Crowds pack out Woolgoolga during Curryfest. Coffs Coast Advocate

Coffs Coast needs major event

ONE of the most experienced tourism experts in Australia says if Coffs Coast wants to put itself firmly on the national map, it needs a massive event to attract attention.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, in town yesterday as a guest of Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker, was the Federal Tourism Minister for three years from 2001.

“You can't just market beautiful beaches, you need an identifiable brand,” he said.

“Beaches are great everywhere. Not only are you competing with the far north coast, south coast, and Queensland but the cost of flights these days means you're also up against Hawaii, Vanuatu... you name it.

“You need a big event to get people here and then let them experience what you have. The regulars will come back and new people will come all the time. That's what puts you on the map. Tamworth is the best example there is.”

Mr Hockey said during his time as the Tourism Minister, he saw three regions come from nothing to build their awareness nationally.

They are Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula and Kangaroo Island.

“Because they also targeted a niche markets,” he said.

“Perhaps Coffs could go after self-funded retirees and market though Rotary clubs, NRMA etc. That's just an example of how to reach and sell to specific groups.

“Word of mouth is the most powerful tool of all. I will go back to Luke's office and Twitter about my Coffs visit and instantly, 10,000 people know about it.”

In meeting with local Chambers of Commerce and business leaders yesterday, Mr Hockey said a common thread was that 'everyone was frustrated by an “apparent lack of direction for the region”.

“Perhaps to clarify, it was that people were pulling in different directions,” he said.

“What was also interesting was how much impact the RTA has locally; I had no idea they had that much influence in the regions.

“I will be taking all that back to Shadow Cabinet. Their voices will certainly be heard.”

Before heading back to Canberra last night, Mr Hockey said the biggest surprise he got while he was here was Sawtell.

“I'd never been there before, wow it was nice but... I wondered where the beach was,” he said.

“Signage was another issue that came up a lot.”

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