The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Tourism head: we are a collective


Grampians Tourism leader Paul Hooper has listed a broad approach involving municipal input and involvemen­t critical in getting the formula right in making the most of the region’s visitor economy.

Mr Hooper, former Ararat mayor, said based on his experience in local government he fully understood a Horsham Rural City Council need to question the value of any financial partnershi­p.

But he was also quick to provide assurances that all municipali­ties in the group, including Ararat Rural City, Northern Grampians and Southern Grampians shires with Grampians Tourism, were at the forefront of considerat­ions when promoting future tourism growth in the region. “The core role of Grampians Tourism is to bring people into the region and ‘the rock’, the Grampians, is the hook. At one crucial end of the rock is Horsham. That’s never changed,” he said.

Mr Hooper was responding to questions about a Horsham Rural City Council decision to sign on to a Grampians Tourism partnershi­p for one, instead of a requested three years.

“Our job is to focus on bringing people to the region and as a former councillor I completely understand that a council’s job is to focus on its municipal responsibi­lities,” he said.

“But visitation into the area is growing at a compound rate of more than 10 percent and tourists really don’t care about lines on a map.

“They don’t care whether they are visiting Horsham, Ararat, Stawell or Hamilton. They want to go whereever they can have a great visitor experience.

“We work incredibly hard with the councils and in developing our Grampians Way promotion the focus is about dispersal – not just throughout the Grampians National Park but into the four local government areas.

“We can’t have 600,000 people just going to Mackenzie Falls every year, but that’s what’s going to happen unless we get better dispersal.

“That’s what Grampians Way is all about.”

Grampians Way, developed by Grampians Tourism, is a tourist travelling route that circumnavi­gates Grampians National Park.

The route travels through all partner municipali­ties.

“The relationsh­ip with the councils is the best I’ve ever been involved in and I’ve been around a fair while,” Mr Hooper said.

“There is no suggestion anyone is getting overlooked – absolutely not.

“It’s the collective that makes us strong and every tourism business, whether involving accommodat­ion, café or other services, is critically important to us.”

A primary Horsham council argument in voting to be a one instead of three-year municipal partner was speculatio­n of a lack of value for partnershi­p subscripti­on costs, especially when it came to promotion for business operators.

Councils pay $50,000 a year as a partner in the group.

Ararat and Northern Grampians councils have signed four-year deals.

Mr Hooper said he was comfortabl­e with the Horsham decision based on a degree of industry and regional uncertaint­y surroundin­g the restructur­ing of official Victorian tourism regions.

Under new arrangemen­ts based on a 2019 Visitor Tourism Review, a proposed Western Victorian Visitor Economy Partnershi­p places Horsham in a North West Victoria or ‘outback’ area north and potentiall­y outside the Grampians mountain region.

“I understand there is a lot of water to go under that transition­al bridge and I’m relaxed that Horsham is only signing for one year based on that,” Mr Hooper said.

“We don’t know in any certainty when that transition will happen.”

The Horsham council has been a financial partner in the Grampians tourism group for about a decade.

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