Rally Australia general manager Michael Masi and Coffs Coast Tourism Association vice chair Fiona Bardon at Monday’s tourism meeting.
Rally Australia general manager Michael Masi and Coffs Coast Tourism Association vice chair Fiona Bardon at Monday’s tourism meeting. Rob Wright

Tourism gets World Rally torque

ROLL out the welcome mat, be prepared to extend your opening hours, take occasional arrogance from overseas visitors in your stride and get together to offer special experiences.

That was the advice from Michael Masi, the general manager of Rally Australia to a packed gathering of tourism operators at Coffs Harbour on Monday

The operators were on hand to learn about how they could make the most of the September 8-11 Rally Australia event on the Coffs Coast, the Australian round of the 13-round 2011 World Rally Championship.

Mr Masi said operators should be open to a lot of questions and should be as helpful as possible and understand some visitors would drink excessively; some were very wealthy people and some came from countries like Spain where restaurants did not open their doors before 9pm and the peak dinner hour was from 10pm-11pm.

One of the key performance indicators for Rally Australia to the NSW Government was to attract 8000 international visitors to the event.

He said they were expecting between 70 and 90 drivers and their support crews, with some teams like Citroen expected to bring more than 100 helpers.

He said the 2009 event on the Northern Rivers had attracted 86,000 visitors, the majority of them day visitors from Brisbane and the Gold Coast and the event was credited with attracting 20,000 unique visitors to the Northern Rivers and generating $16.9 million in new economic benefit during the event.

Mr Masi said this year’s event on the Coffs Coast was expected to attract slightly fewer visitors but provide a higher economic impact.

The overwhelming majority of spectators would be ‘people from our own backyard’ the Rally Australia boss said.

Rally headquarters would be at Opal Cove Resort; the media centre at Coffs Harbour Racing Club and the service park would be at the northern end of Coffs Harbour Airport.

Unlike previous local rally rounds, spectator points would all be ticketed. There would be no free viewing on rally roads, although entry to the service area and the race start would be free.

There would be a ceremonial start to the race in Harbour Drive on Thursday and ‘super special’ stages on three days with stadium circuit events at a venue still be to be announced.

Mr Masi said the special stages on rally roads would see cars heading north-west on Friday, south on Saturday and north on Sunday to concentrate the economic impact for smaller communities in the four local government areas involved, with Coffs Harbour at the epicentre.

“Try to give them the best experience – a fantastic time so they would want to come back again,” Mr Masi said.

He encouraged tourism and hotel operators to establish a direct link to the visitor centre and to work together in different ways with attractions in the area and to educate visitors about what the entire region had to offer.

Questions ranged from ticket costs (‘accessible’) and bookings (negotiating with Ticketek) to public transport.

Mr Masi said they were working on getting extra taxis for the event and discussing how to approach bus transport to spectator points.

The regional manager for state and regional development and tourism with Industry and Investment NSW, Bill Mabey, welcomed tourism operators to the function at the Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club, hosted by the Coffs Coast Tourism Association and chaired by the Association’s vice chairwoman, Fiona Bardon.

Ms Bardon outlined the progress of the merger between the Coffs Coast and Tourism Bellinger tourism associations.

Coffs Harbour City Council tourism manager Glenn Caldwell gave a brief outline of the Coffs Coast destination Leisure Marketing Plan 2011-2013 which was now in draft form and about to be circulated to members of the tourism association.

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