Tourism merger plan delayed after letter raises concerns

PLANS to merge Warwick Tourism and Events with Granite Belt Wine and Tourism have been put on the back burner and the decision on a way forward once again placed in the hands of the people.

The decision was made at a Southern Downs Regional special council meeting, which was called to respond to a number of concerns raised in a letter from the Granite Belt Wine and Tourism.

Councillors voted to consider GBWT's requests, effectively slowing down plans to amalgamate GBWT with Warwick Tourism and Events.

The Transition Advisory Board, originally tasked to have the single LTO up and running by July 2014, has been re-dubbed a reference group, formed to determine what direction tourist operators wanted to take.

Councillors Neil Meiklejohn and Jo McNally were the only two to vote against the decision, which will see the local tourism organisations offer their opinions on a way forward.

Cr Meiklejohn said he felt the move was against the original decision to form a single tourism entity.

"At the moment we have two local tourism organisations doing similar things," he said.

"They both do a great job but I think a single LTO would work better."

Cr Meiklejohn was however happy with the part of the recommendation that involved councillors having a workshop and determining what role they wanted to play in the region's tourism in the future.

Cr Jamie Mackenzie acknowledged the process had been a complicated one.

"There is a diversion of opinions on whether there should be one tourist body for the Southern Downs or to continue supporting the current two local tourism entities," he said.

"Today at council, we clarified that all options are open and I hope we can resolve this matter early in 2014 so we are on-track to start innovations immediately in the next financial year."

It is now up to the two entities to tell us what is best rather than the council forcing an amalgamation.

Cr Vic Pennisi said it was important the decision came from the people on the ground.

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