New tourism body for North Coast

MEMBERS of the North Coast's peak regional tourism organisation are worried for their jobs but optimistic about a plan to create six new "destination networks" around New South Wales.

The current North Coast Destination Network will be disbanded and replaced by a new body by the end of the year.

The Baird Government has committed $43 million over four years to overhaul the current system and consolidate regional and rural tourism organisations under more efficient models.

Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said creating Destination North Coast, which would include Lord Howe Island, would allow the region's tourism funding to rapidly increase.

"The networks will improve industry engagement and better development of visitor experiences and products," he said.

"By investing around $10 million a year in support of the new regional initiatives we aim to bolster our efforts in attracting visitors to regional and rural NSW.

"The NSW Government has a goal of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by 2020, and we know that regional tourism is an important driver in meeting this target."

The government's rhetoric is predictably positive but glosses over the fact existing tourism boards across NSW are about to be dismantled and people will lose their jobs.

It also means the NSW Government will have tighter control over how it funds tourism projects.

North Coast Destination Network communications manager Sonia Fingleton still believed the move was in the region's best interest.

"The part we most applaud is that there is so much more money coming to regional and rural tourism," she said.

"They've simplified the funding process extensively, which is what we asked for, and will put more money into marketing the region.

"Unfortunately our current (organisation) will be wound down but there are positions available within the new destination network.

"Naturally, all of us working with the current (organisation) are uncertain about our futures.

"But we know the new system is at least planned to work better for our communities."

Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive officer Carol Giuseppi applauded the creation of a dedicated regional conferencing unit for Destination NSW, an initiative TAA had sought for years.

"This is an excellent initiative by the NSW Government because while weekend and holiday tourism has remained strong in many regional centres, other areas have seen downturns in business travel and conferencing due to the depressed mining, manufacturing and agriculture sectors," said Ms Giuseppi.

"NSW has an abundance of rich tourism attractions and quality hotels, and we believe that with greater promotion and support that these destinations can attract more major conferences, which have a significant multiplier effect for the wider regional economy." -ARM NEWSDESK

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