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New tourism plan a game changer

By Mark Beale

THE BEST days for the Whitsundays lie ahead, according to Whitsundays Marketing and Development CEO Danial Rochford, who last week delivered a draft copy of the new Destination Tourism Plan (DTP) to Whitsunday Regional Council. The new tourism planning document will guide the local tourism industry through to the year 2020 and aims to increase annual tourism expenditure from where it currently sits, at $785million, to $1.24billion. Mr Rochford said the Whitsundays was on the cusp of a major population growth, affording the region a major opportunity to grow tourism.

The plan calls for four ‘key catalytic strategies’ – the fundamental one being the upgrade of the Whitsunday Coast Airport to international status. “The more we can improve route access into the Whitsunday region, the more we can stimulate growth,” he said. Mr Rochford said developing an integrated resort development and hosting more events like the Airlie Beach Music Festival, as well as business events, are the other key strategies that will help grow the Whitsundays tourism. “So we still have a little bit of work to go to reaching that 2020 target, but essentially this document is about developing the game-changers,” he said. “We’re looking at ways in which we can stimulate new ways of encouraging tourism, both from a demand perspective – how we market the region – and a supply perspective – what infrastructure, what new products, and what new experiences do we have to encourage and entice our visiting public.” The engagement process for developing the DTP began in January and has been signed off by state and local governments and WMDL and is the first time Mr Rochford has seen three bodies agreeing to one planning mechanism. The document encompasses a number of studies and documents from previous years and integrates into existing planning tools and strategies.

“This is certainly not a shelf warmer,” Mr Rochford said. The DTP will come before next week’s council meeting for adoption.

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