In response to Ron Egeberg's letter dated 9th July we are certainly in agreement on the fact that our elected representatives are responsible for the financial management of the city.
However, we will not agree there was anything unfortunate about our elected officials be called to account for their actions that have left 16 staff out of a job, our tourism industry in a state of confusion and council officer without a plan.
The tourism industry in Ballarat contributes $500 million to our local economy. Our industry employs 3000 locals, so any big decision that affects our industry also potentially affects 3000 families and therefore affects our community.
This basic economic principle of a flow on effect that tourism creates has a far wider impact on our local economy. There is significant concern amongst not only industry members, but the broader business community that our elected officials do not fully grasp this concept.
We strongly agree with Mr Egeberg's comment that tourism research is vital for Ballarat's development and growth. This is exactly what the Made of Ballarat campaign has been based on. Comprehensive and independent research finding that today's regional tourism consumers are seeking new, innovative, bespoke and engaging experiences. This is exactly what the sophisticated Made of Ballarat campaign has successfully targeted.
Not only has the Made of Ballarat campaign been nominated for multiple awards, it has been lauded by Visit Victoria as an inspirational campaign, resonating strongly with a new and highly engaged type of visitor - the high spend visitor who traditionally visited the likes of the Mornington Peninsula, Daylesford and the Yarra Valley - and they're now travelling to, staying and spending in Ballarat.
Made of Ballarat is helping our town break away from the "Old, Gold and Cold" stereotype and proves there is more to Ballarat than a nice place for families to visit. The lessons of MADE show us that our rich history, however valuable, is not enough to drive visitation forward and to remain firmly rooted in the past would be to our own detriment.
We are blessed in Ballarat to have a rich history and heritage and that will always remain a key competitive edge but anyone who believes Heritage weekend was a massive success is sadly mistaken. Talk to the tourism operators, at best occupancies ran at 75%, less than the average weekend for most operators. Heritage weekend, along with Begonia festival are excellent community events. They are not tourism.
To grow is to diversify, to engage with new markets and attract new visitors is to evolve. We have a new energy, a broader attraction and we're excited by the possibilities our city can offer.
We agree with Mr Egeberg that working together is the key to success but cannot abide his defence of council for the poor show of leadership on this matter. Effective leadership is about consultation and engagement. Sadly, at last week's meeting the Mayor and councillors were more interested in telling than listening to the people at the frontline of the industry.
As rate payers, employers and tourism advocates for our great city, we along with our industry colleagues will continue to hold our council accountable for their actions. If any of the elected representatives feel this is unreasonable we would suggest that they have lost sight of their role as democratically elected representatives or they have been in the job too long.
Simon and Gorgi Coghlan, Ballarat