The NSW government is right to push more business events and conferences to the bush.
Taking a leaf out of the Federal Government handbook on decentralisation.
The conferencing industry is currently worth about $145 million every year to regional NSW, but it’s an industry that’s been in decline for regional areas.
In the last decade, the number of visitor nights generated by business events in regional NSW has fallen by an average annual rate of 1.9 per cent. Our market share of the eastern seaboard is down from 13.1 per cent in 2007 to 11.5 per cent in March this year.
When you crunch the numbers, that’s millions of dollars we’re missing out on.
The $6 million NSW Regional Conferencing Strategy and Action Plan (a name straight from the Sexy Departmental Naming Strategy Handbook) aims to stop the decline with a variety of strategies.
But one area it could focus more on, is travel. Travel time, frequency and cost is the biggest hurdle regional NSW faces when it comes to attracting big business events and conferences.
If the telecommunications industry wants to have a state - or nation-wide conference, it’s far easier for the majority of people to catch a flight or train to Sydney – or if they’re feeling adventurous, Newcastle or Wollongong – than it is to get to Broken Hill or Tamworth.
Improving our rail and air services (Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson has been pushing for more regional airline slots into Sydney Airport) would go a long way to attracting more conferences.
The strategy also kicked off with videos promoting the benefits of holding a conference in Albury, Wagga Wagga, Broken Hill, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Tumbi Umbi.
While the government classifies everywhere outside of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle as regional, it’s still strange to see places like Tumbi Umbi, a suburb of the Central Coast, and Port Stephens, a tourism hot spot that’s half an hour’s drive north of Newcastle, lumped in with places like Broken Hill.
Does, Port Stephens, the Central Coast or Coffs Harbour really need help attracting business events and conferences?
Perhaps this strategy should invest solely in areas west of the Great Dividing Range. Or at the very least, the government should consider a separate strategy for places your average Joe would consider, regional.