Kathy Balodis

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Kathy Balodis is an enthusiastic member of the Mid North Coast Regional Tourism Organisation. Here she gives us an update on exciting new plans to promote our region here and abroad in the coming year.

>What is the role of the Mid North Coast Regional Tourism Organisation?

The MNCRTO is an area from Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour comprising eight local government area members, who welcome over four million visitors each year. The body exists as a conduit between the region and the State Government. Primarily its role is to market and promote the whole region, as well as key anchor destinations. It also looks to establish key strategic partnerships with bodies such as National Parks and the RTA.  

 > The State Government undertook a review into tourism in NSW. Explain a little about this … 

State visitation had been declining and NSW State Government budget allocation for tourism was less in comparison to other states. There was a genuine feeling in the state for a need for review and subsequent change and for industry to undertake a greater role. The State Government commissioned the ‘O’Neill review into tourism in NSW ‘. It was an extensive whole of state and industry consultation to discuss what was required for future growth. 

> What was the outcome of the review? 

A great deal of healthy discussion and debate, and the State Government embraced industry to determine a government strategy based on the review (just released). The government has committed an extra $40 million over the next three years, with the overall aim to increase overnight visitation to the state. The strategy increases the visitation targets set by the state plan and sets other key outcomes to achieve. The strategy will focus on the key areas of regional tourism, international tourism, visit Sydney, supply side issues, and a state tourism plan. The key point for us, of course, was the focus on regional tourism and the increased funding.  

> What will the new funding for the MNCRTO mean for the organisation in achieving its objectives? 

In the past our funding from the State Government was $140,000 per year and was used for marketing as well as administration purposes. In 2009 we will receive $695,000 for the year, for the sole purpose of marketing and promoting the Mid North Coast to increase overnight visitation. This money must be matched dollar for dollar by industry. Therefore in 2009 we will undertake a $1.39 million dollar marketing and promotional plan. 

There will be two six monthly plans provided to the state regional industry reference group – a group determined by the Minister, who reports to the Board of Tourism NSW. The plan will outline key campaign objectives, target markets, campaign spend, time in market, and media plan. The plan also outlines key measurements. Once the plan is approved, we will be promoting the region and key individual destinations throughout 2009.  

> How will this work? 

Over the past two weeks myself and the Executive Officer of the MNCRTO, Belinda Novicky, have been meeting with key industry players and the Tourism Manager in each of the eight local government areas. We have discussed the opportunities for accessing the money. The aim is to have a strategic regional marketing plan. 

At times promotions will advertise the whole region and at other times specific destinations such as Greater Port Macquarie or Manning Valley. Each Tourism Manager is writing a submission to the MNCRTO to access dollar for dollar. The RTO will then combine the plans to submit a whole of region plan to the State Government. 

We submit a plan in January and June. This is a great opportunity to dramatically increase the dollars to market individual destinations plus the whole of region. It is a great opportunity for industry and local government to continue to strengthen their partnerships and drive growth. 

The Board of the RTO has been also working hard at looking at ways to drive efficiencies and therefore deliver further dollars to the marketing plan e.g. combining resources to go to trade shows and working on key partnerships with other regional bodies such as Central Coast, Hunter, and Northern Rivers to promote internationally and domestically the Pacific Coast Driving Route from Sydney to Brisbane. 

> Any other key changes to come about? 

The review into tourism discussed the willingness of industry to take a greater role. State Government has listened and responded and welcomed that involvement. The eight members of the MNCRTO voted at the recent AGM to invite and include the eight peak industry bodies to be members. It is truly an exciting year, with great opportunities. In the beginning of 2009 the eight Tourism Managers will meet with the eight peak industry body representative for a two day workshop, to look at latest qualitative research and undertake a facilitated workshop to determine what we want to achieve and how best to achieve it. 

While marketing the region is paramount, there are other issues to explore, as outlined in the review and subsequent strategy paper. Issues such as utilising state assets for sustainable visitor experiences, as well as addressing planning issues that make it difficult to develop new tourism product in our region. 

> Is there also a new body for all regional tourism bodies? 

Yes, there is. It’s called FORTO – Forum of Regional Tourism Organisation. There are 13 Regional Tourism Organsiations in the state. FORTO’s role is to be the voice of regional tourism and work in strong partnership with Tourism NSW. 

> Will 2009 be a difficult year with the current economic climate? 

There is no doubt we are in difficult times. However interest rates are lower, petrol prices have decreased, and the Australian dollar is not as strong (the MNC relies heavily on domestic tourism). Also, Australians understand the benefits of a holiday, even for a short break. With the increased marketing dollars, strong partnerships with industry, and key strategic partners such as National Parks, we have great opportunities for growth in 2009.  

Thanks Kathy.

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