Coffs Harbour's most recognisable tourist attraction is the Big Banana.
Coffs Harbour's most recognisable tourist attraction is the Big Banana.

Tourism bodies to unite

THE Coffs Coast Tourism Association and Tourism Bellinger have merged to become Tourism Coffs Coast.

The joint marketing push now covers the Bellingen and Coffs Harbour local government areas significantly boosting the ‘saleability’ of both regions.

Surprisingly, Nambucca Valley Tourism has decided not to join the new association at this stage.

The chairman of the existing Coffs Coast Tourism Association, George Cecato, said although they had signed all the documents for the new body and the new association would operate in a similar way to the existing bodies, there would be new guidelines and new ideas which would be put in place once the new board met.

Mr Cecato said looking at the areas which were doing well in tourism, like the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, those operators promoted their region rather than individual towns.

“For a tourist there are no boundaries,” Mr Cecato said.

“We are going to become a region and promote our combined assets and products as a region.”

The timely announcement comes on the heels of the 2009/2010 Regional Tourism Profile for the Mid North Coast which showed $2.2 billion was spent in the region by visitors in the last financial year, 71 per cent of it by domestic overnight visitors.

This latest annual survey saw Coffs Harbour statistical local area lose the top spot in the region for domestic overnight visitors to Port Stephens, with Port Macquarie once again occupying third place.

Coffs Harbour’s visitor numbers slipped from 638,000 in 2008-09 to 562,000 in 2009-10 and its visitor nights slipped from 2,007,000 to 1,678,000 taking its regional visitor share down to 19 per cent, a drop from 22 per cent in the previous year and its share of nights to 15 per cent down from 17 per cent.

The average length of stay slipped only slightly from 3.1 nights to three nights.

Both Port Macquarie and Port Stephens increased their visitor numbers.

In international visitors Coffs Harbour did much better, again topping the list with 68,000 international visitors (46 per cent), while both Port Macquarie and Port Stephens saw fewer international travellers.

Overseas visitors are also staying longer in Coffs Harbour with an average stay of 4.7 nights, compared to 3.7 nights the previous year.

Coffs Harbour City Council tourism manager Glenn Caldwell said the direct economic impact of tourism on the Coffs Coast was about $500 million a year and it always figured in the top three industries for the region.

He said the move for industry groups to join forces created an opportunity for them to be more consistent and strategic in their overall approach to tourism.

He said Coffs Harbour and Bellingen councils had signed a memorandum of understanding on tourism to enable them to work more collaboratively.

“While the report still indicates Coffs Harbour is a key destination, tourism has seen a slow decline over the last decade,” Mr Caldwell said.

He said there were many external factors affecting tourism, including an increase in consumer options; competition with other destinations; changes in consumer spending over time and petrol prices.

“The number of impacts on tourism is enormous,” Mr Caldwell said. “Although the survey shows us losing some market share, the Coffs Coast is still in a very favourable position because of the strength of the tourism industry here.”

“We definitely had a decline this year,” Coffs Coast Tourism Association Chairman George Cecato said.

“I am surprised we have increased share in any category. My own personal research and talking to colleagues was that 90 per cent of accommodation houses reported a decrease in visitors and only a very small minority equal numbers or an increase.”

Mr Cecato says Coffs Harbour was losing to rival centres because it has no tourism levy and the industry had not invested in its own properties and locations.

TOURISM: THE NUMBERS

Tourism is worth $500 million in direct economic impact on the Coffs Coast.

Coffs Harbour statistical local area (similar to the Coffs Coast) was the second most important domestic tourist destination on the Mid North Coast (defined as between Woolgoolga and north of Newcastle) in 2009-2010.

Coffs Harbour SLA recorded 562,000 visitors and 1,678,000 visitor nights, giving the area a 19 per cent share of regional visitors.

The average length of stay was three nights.

Coffs Harbour SLA was the top international visitor destination on the Mid North Coast, with 68,000 international visitors (46 per cent).

Overseas visitors stayed an average of 4.7 nights.



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