Tourism merger could see a lift

Another beautiful winter's day on the Granite Belt, what could be better?
Another beautiful winter's day on the Granite Belt, what could be better? Shannon Newley

A NEW tourism supergroup could be on the cards, with the aim of seeing more visitors flock to the Southern Downs to spend their tourist dollars.

A report was released yesterday for tourism operators across the region, which recommended the Warwick Tourism and Events and Granite Belt Wine and Tourism bodies merge under one "umbrella".

It was pitched that the two entities would combine their talents in the realms of strategies and promotion, to lure visitors and build what could be one of the most successful inland tourism regions in Australia.

Through research, investigations and consultation with various stakeholders, Team Tourism Consulting, contracted by the Southern Downs Regional Council, came up with a strategy to merge the two groups.

"Two local tourism organisations (LTOs) are not currently maximising opportunities for growth because there is no single point of contact," consultant Jennifer Houiellebecq said.

She said having two bodies meant there were gaps in services where they were not working together.

"It's about working together to improve first impressions and effectively attract investment to the region," Ms Houiellebecq said.

She said the four pillars the Southern Downs' proposed strategy aimed to base itself on were festivals and events, culture and heritage, wine and local flavours and ecotourism.

She added by combining both tourism bodies, each region could benefit from what the other had to offer.

Southern Downs Mayor Peter Blundell said he was pleased with the strategy put forward by the consultants yesterday and felt creating a consolidated LTO was the best for the region.

"I hate the term amalgamation because it puts a bad context in people's minds, but this definitely has a lot of benefits," Cr Blundell said.

"It is a good idea and I have agonised over it too, but what we should all do is step back from our personal positions and look at what's best for the region."

Cr Blundell said the council would not be up for putting any more money into tourism than had already been allocated in the 2012-13 budget, but was keen to implement a structure that could "serve our tourism industry well into the future".

"I think the question is, can we afford not to do it?" Cr Blundell said.

Spring Creek Mountain Cafe and Cottages owner Bev Ruskey said she too was all for the idea.

"Warwick's always recognised for its events and they're run really well and I certainly don't want to see any of that being affected, but it's a good idea and we've got to accept this is going to happen and has got to happen," Mrs Ruskey said.

"I'm hopeful that what has been started here in Warwick will stay and events will keep growing."

The strategy is yet to go through the Southern Downs Regional Council, and will be brought up at a meeting over the next couple of months.

Topics:  merger tourism

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