The City of Ballarat would like to set the record straight in relation to Council’s decision to end its service agreement with Visit Ballarat.
The decision was based on a range of factors including: visitation; market share; competing priorities for public money; the removal of duplicated services; and the ability to engage directly with tourism operators, visitors and residents.
The City of Ballarat acknowledges the fact Ballarat’s overall visitor numbers have increased as outlined by Tourism Research Australia’s recent National Visitors Survey (comparisons March 2018 to March 2019).
The City of Ballarat understands there will always be fluctuations in quarterly data; this is to be expected. However, the long-term data provides context and paints a bleaker picture. To put it simply Ballarat is not performing as well as comparable destinations such as the cities of Bendigo and Geelong, and has not kept pace with the Victorian average for regional visitation.
When combined with its event operations spend, the City of Ballarat invests around $6 million a year for a $484 million tourism services output or return.
In contrast, the City of Greater Bendigo spends $3.8 million a year for a $479 million output. And the City of Greater Geelong – which is almost twice the size of Ballarat - spends $4.9 million for an almost one-billion-dollar return.
As previously stated, this is a major concern and a point that absolutely cannot be ignored given the level of investment in Visit Ballarat since its inception (as Ballarat Regional Tourism) in 2010. The City of Ballarat is one of the biggest single local government contributors to tourism in the state.
When Ballarat Regional Tourism (BRT) was established, the board committed to generating financial input from tourism providers. This has not happened, which has in turn forced ratepayers to bear the brunt of this financial burden year after year.
The City of Ballarat understands every dollar counts. We are responsible for the sound management of public money and currently ratepayers are spending too much money on an industry that is being propped-up at the expense of others.
Following the resumption of tourism marketing services, the tourism industry will remain a focus for the City of Ballarat and Council along with a range of other key sectors including waste and recycling, sport capital works, and essential community services.
It is important to note the City of Ballarat’s Events team will remain the lead for event management. Over the years this has translated into successes such as securing multiple AFL games; the highly successful White Night and Spilt Milk, which sold out in a week; the Archibald Prize; and a new three-year commitment for the Cycling Australia Road Nationals.
The City of Ballarat and Council are frequently meeting with Visit Ballarat to ensure a smooth transition of tourism marketing services.
The City of Ballarat will target a broader range of sectors in relation to marketing campaigns, not micro markets at the expense of others. Everyone will have an opportunity to be involved in the development of the Ballarat is Open Strategy; a city-wide marketing strategy which will leverage Ballarat’s strengths as a city that is unique, bold, creative, beautiful and proud. This will not only build the visitor economy but will capture and promote the full range of activities and benefits of living, working and visiting Ballarat.
The resumption of tourism marketing will also create a more streamlined and efficient process and will reduce administration costs by $300,000-$500,000 annually. These savings will be redirected to important community services and assets.
In relation to the Regional Tourism Services Review and as previously mentioned, the City of Ballarat has already been in contact with Visit Victoria and Regional Development Victoria and have met with respective state government Ministers and administrators about the Regional Tourism Services Review – dating back to well before this version of the review was announced.
In fact, through the state’s Regional Partnerships program, the City of Ballarat was heavily involved in looking at a range of early options for a more effective provision of services and regional promotion for tourism businesses across the Grampians region and Western Victoria, not just here in Ballarat.
We look forward to welcoming the Victorian Government Regional Tourism Services Review to Ballarat next week to continue this important conversation and work of regional tourism.