The Western Star - - FRONT PAGE - Ellen Ransley [email protected]­ern­

WHILE new data sug­gests tourists not only spent more in Aus­tralia last year, but spent more time vis­it­ing ru­ral and re­gional lo­ca­tions, there is still room to grow in the south-west, lo­cal coun­cils say.

Tourists spent $113.4 bil­lion in Aus­tralia last year, and the Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Tourism, Si­mon Birm­ing­ham, said more peo­ple were turn­ing to the bush as part of their Aus­tralian ex­pe­ri­ence.

“2.84 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers chose to spend time in the bush, at the coast or in the out­back in the 12 months prior to Septem­ber 2018,” he said.

“Aus­tralia’s tourism in­dus­try con­tin­ues to see strong growth and our re­gions are start­ing to reap the ben­e­fits.”

Some mem­bers of the lo­cal in­dus­try don’t feel those num­bers are quite reach­ing the south-west re­gion.

Tourism port­fo­lio chair Puddy Chan­dler said the Min­is­ter was talk­ing more about re­gional des­ti­na­tions in Tas­ma­nia, Vic­to­ria and New South Wales, and that there needed to be more fo­cus put on out­back tourism in Queens­land.

Cr Chan­dler said the Mara­noa Re­gional Coun­cil was work­ing closely with Mara­noa tourism to im­prove the re­gion as a des­ti­na­tion.

“We need to talk more about out­back tourism, about head­ing west.

“We’re work­ing on de­vel­op­ing the Big Rig to make it more iconic, we want to make it a must-see on self-drive itin­er­ar­ies.

“We’re only six hours drive or a one hour flight from Brisbane, we want peo­ple to stop here and learn more about our unique re­gion.”

Cr Chan­dler said there was a col­lec­tive goal to make the Mara­noa more ap­peal­ing to tourists, in­clud­ing in­tro­duc­ing a “wel­come to...” pro­gram that would in­clude all re­tail­ers in the re­gion.

“In these kinds of towns, ev­ery busi­ness has a con­nec­tion to tourism, it doesn’t mat­ter if they’re a tyre shop, most re­tail busi­nesses come in con­tact with tourists.”

Last month, the six coun­cils of the south-west; Mara­noa, Balonne, Mur­weh, Pa­roo, Bul­loo and Quilpie, met to dis­cuss their re­gional eco­nomic devel­op­ment, and how they would use a $150,000 tourism booster from the Queens­land Govern­ment.

An­nie Lis­ton, who is the South West Re­gional Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion Chair and Mur­weh Shire Mayor, said the coun­cils from the re­gion were join­ing forces to fur­ther boost re­gional tourism.

“We may be hav­ing a drought, but we are start­ing to see floods of vis­i­tors hit­ting the high­way to sam­ple life in the south-west. The six coun­cils will work to­gether to cross pro­mote ex­pe­ri­ences for those head­ing out this way.”

Queens­land Premier Anas­ta­sia Palazc­szuk re­cently an­nounced 2019 the Year of the Out­back, which Cr Lis­ton hopes will help boost num­bers.


AC­TION TIME: Char­lie Eames, Coun­cil­lor Puddy Chan­dler and Cyril Peet from The Big Rig Ac­tion Group.

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