Opportunity for tourism growth 'stunted' by council
A TRIAL to boost tourism opportunities in the Balonne Shire have been squashed after council voted not to proceed with dual tourism operators due to costs.
The shire is currently a paying member of Southern Queensland Country Tourism, but had considered trialling a membership with Outback Queensland Tourism Association for 12 months to decide which regional tourism organisation benefited the shire most.
Thallon Progress Association secretary Leanne Brosnan said, although SQCT had been very supportive in initiatives to promote the town, many tourism operators in the shire felt they might "miss out” from not exploring the opportunities dual-trialled membership would offer.
"(We) have expressed desire in the past to trial OQTA and we would have certainly liked to have seen that opportunity explored by council and to have given that trial a go,” Ms Brosnan said.
"A lot of our market are people who are just passing through the shire on the way to outback regions, and they're exploring that product as it is - outback tourism.
"It's hard to say whether we are missing out, we won't know.
"A trial would have allowed us to explore extra opportunities, and now we won't know.”
The neighbouring council in the Maranoa trialled membership with both RTOs for a year, before it made the decision to move away from SQCT in favour of OQTA, according to Maranoa councillor Cameron O'Neill.
"We decided to straddle both for 12 months and then make a decision on which one would benefit the region long term,” he said.
"Eventually, we made the decision it would be far better to join OQTA and position ourselves as a gateway to that region.
"The outback is a targeted product, there are 12 councils in that RTO, with more members.
"We're united in showcasing all of the different products based on the different landscapes, and feature the different tourism strengths in each of the communities.
"We have the opportunity to pool together and showcase what we have to offer.” Council currently spends $12,073 a year on membership to SQTA, with an annueal membership to OQTA $20,503.
OQTA has almost 50,000 more Facebook followers than SQCT.
Mayor Richard Marsh told the Beacon the majority of council had made the decision after serious consideration.
"We could have budgeted for it in next year's budget, but the majority voted 4-3 against trialling for it,” he said.
"Some people felt we should have given it a try, but the majority considered we already had a tourism RTO acting for us in SQCT, and we didn't have the budget for it, so it was best not to spend the money.”