Margaret Cairns.
Margaret Cairns.

Tourism operators are fed up

REGIONAL tourism organisation chair Margaret Cairns is facing a backlash from industry operators in the south of the region after she said they “thought they were God's gift to tourism”.

Her outburst, printed in both the Daily News and Border Post at the beginning of the month, came after the first in a series of meetings to discuss reforms to the tourism structure in the region.

The proposal suggests a local tourism organisation in Warwick to mirror the Granite Belt model, and that a regional “events” body be created.

Granite Belt operators say a new Warwick model would have to play catch up with the southern organisation, but have expressed their willingness to help the Rose City get up to speed.

Mrs Cairns chairs the Southern Downs and Granite Belt Regional Tourism (SDGBRT), a body funded partly by fees paid by members across the region.

The Daily News contacted 17 Granite Belt-based members of the SDGBRT.

Of the 12 who responded, three said they would definitely not renew their membership, four said they were uncertain, and five said they would stick with SDGBRT.

Ruth McLennan, co-owner of Alure Boutique Villas, said she and fellow operators were still reeling from the comments, and at this point they were unlikely to renew their membership.

“We work very hard to promote tourism and these comments were pretty distressing,” she said.

Tere Bonner, from Aloomba Lavender, also said she would not renew her membership with SDGBRT.

“To be truthful, we can't afford it.

“The comments in the press did have an effect but it's not my main reason for not renewing.

“I don't think the organisation is doing what it was there to do and marketing the region properly.”

Paula Cabezas, from Summit Estate, echoed the sentiments, adding that she supported the proposed bottoms-up structure.

“We are not going to renew our membership. Personally I really want to push to have a local tourism organisation in Warwick.

"The regional tourism organisation as it is, isn't working.”

Jaclyn Slack, from The Vines Motel, said she wanted to see what tourism structure would be implemented and would not renew her membership and Jonathan Marr, from Girraween Environmental Lodge, said he was reconsidering his membership because he wasn't happy with the way things were going.

The owners of Vincenzo's questioned the value for money they were getting, and the new owners of Vineyard Cottages and Cafe said they were unsure of their position.

Crystal Ridge Lavender, Granite Highlands Maxi Tours, Golden Grove Estate, Applegrove Farm and Aventine Wines all said they were happy to stick with the regional organisation.

The Daily News contacted both SDGBRT and Margaret Cairns but both declined to comment.

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