United in tourist vision

A NEWLY incorporated local tourism body starts work in New Norfolk next month. The organisation has been formed to drive a contemporary tourism plan for both the Derwent Valley and the Central Highlands. Among its first tasks will be establishing a single brand for the combined region, and to draw membership across all visitor servicing businesses.

Formally incorporated as the Derwent Valley and Central Highlands Tourism Association, it is envisaged as a geographically larger and more inclusive group of business and individuals involved in the task of catering to tourists. “A local tourism body can represent and support many small businesses who sometimes feel their voices are not heard. It’s not just the obvious businesses catering to visitors – restaurants, pubs and cafes, antique stores and wineries,” says secretary, Lisa West.

Sam Bradley of Derwent Experience

“Tourism is much more broadly based than that. Think of the newsagent, petrol stations, the chemist … if nothing else, they’re likely to find themselves providing services and local information to tourists.

“We see these kind of businesses and the people they employ as guides, tourism ambassadors to our region, a valuable resource beyond just the core service providers to visitors.” While organisational elements are yet to be nailed down, it’s expected initial tasks of the new association will be to investigate the needs of members, decide on priorities to be achieved and arrange a fresh membership drive. Members will also consider a branding name for the region, a way of identifying the particular qualities of a combined Valley and Highlands, and putting them to work for the communities and its membership as a whole. “There’s no demarcation between the Derwent Valley and the Central Highlands,” adds Ms West.

“Indeed, the majority of visitors will come up from Hobart and go through the Derwent Valley to reach the lakes, mountains and natural features in the north.” The new association is already working with the regional tourism body, Destination Southern Tasmania. “It’s valuable to have a visitor association that acts as eyes and ears on the ground, supporting all the business across the visitor spectrum,” says DST’s Damian Mather.

As industry development coordinator, Mr Mather says the newly incorporated association is able to draw on his organisation’s advocacy, marketing and industry development support. “You have to remember members of a committee like this volunteer their time and expertise,” he continues.

“It’s critical they have a forum where they can coordinate their own business needs with others, even competitors. “Their work is collaborative within the committee, and collaborative outside, too, with groups like ours and beyond, to providing feedback to the State Government and its agencies,” he says. “What this new association is doing is really quite ambitious. “But they can see the visitor prospects for the Valley and Central Highlands are excellent. “The work they’ve done to secure the Autumn Festival, and bringing in the Rotary Club, is evidence of that.”

The new association’s vice-president, Sam Bradley, has been in the visitor business for two years now. “I realised this area’s potential, that it was under served by tour operators compared with, say, the Freycinet Peninsula,” he recalls. “Better, we’re right on the doorstep of Hobart and the large number of potential visitors coming out of there, looking for places to go, things to see.”

Mr Bradley’s business is Derwent Experience, taking small groups of visitors to carefully selected visitor attractions including vineyards.

More, he’s already expanded his tours to take in Cradle Mountain. Five hours travel both ways and about the same interval on the ground in the highlands makes for a long day trip, but it’s proving attractive to visitors, he says.

“A tourism association for the whole area makes sense to me, and it will improve the entire visitor experience. For operators, it’s worthwhile remembering that a rising tide lifts all boats.