International Arts Tourism – Australia Council Report 2018

The Australia Council has just released (November 2018) an important research paper outlining the importance of arts tourism to Australia. International Arts Tourism, Connecting Communities, with all the latest trends, data and statistics notes:

Arts experiences play an important and growing role in international tourism to Australia. They engage international visitors with the uniqueness, depth and diversity of Australian culture, support local economies and share Australian stories and perspectives with the world.

A 14 page summary of the report  can be found at Arts Tourism Australia Council Report 2018

Events & Festivals

Cultural Events & Festivals have long been what the Mid North Coast is known for with some such as Camp Creative and the Kendall National Violin Competition established more than two decades ago. Today there are a host of events and several ways in which they can gain assistance from Destination NSW.

The Regional Flagship Events Program

The Regional Flagship Events Program identifies and supports events in Regional NSW that have the potential to act as ‘cornerstone’, or Flagship, tourism events for their area by attracting overnight visitation and delivering long term benefits to their region.

On 6 July 2016, the NSW Government announced that the Regional Flagship Events Program would be expanded to include two additional funds in addition to the existing marketing support fund. The name “Regional Flagship Events Program” will remain as the umbrella title under which the three funds will sit as follows:

  • Incubator Event Fund – supports the establishment of new events
  • Flagship Event Fund  -  supports the marketing of emerging events to increase their profile and encourage visitation.
  • Event Development Fund – supports the strategic development of proven flagship events as drivers of tourism

More detailed information can be found at

Other DNSW Event Support

A key role for Destination NSW is the provision of professional event expertise and financial assistance to event partners. The aim is to work in partnership with industry to develop the NSW Events Calendar that delivers both medium and long-term benefits to Sydney and NSW.

To be considered for support an event partner needs to make a formal submission to Destination NSW, which details the economic, strategic, marketing and community impacts of their proposed event.

Those seeking support should first read the seven key assessment criteria and if the event meets one or more of the strategic criteria then work through the checklist before sending in a full submission. Working through the checklist will help you understand the assessment process.

Details can be found at

Local Government Support

A number of Councils on the Mid North Coast have their own Events grants or sponsorship systems. These vary so you should check with the Tourism Manager at your local Council.

NSW Cultural Tourism Toolkit

The Cultural Tourism Toolkit aims to help invigorate cultural tourism in regional NSW by assisting small regional communities to enhance profile and package their arts and cultural offering. For these communities cultural tourism means greater participation in local events, more visitors to local galleries and museums and broader economic benefits for small businesses through increased visitor numbers and longer visitor stays.

The Toolkit makes practical suggestions to support planning for cultural tourism and includes a number of case studies that show the different ways towns and regions are promoting their arts and culture to tourists. One example is Our Rivers Our History  a projects pf the Mid Coast Chapter of Museums Australia developed with assistance by Arts Mid North Coast. It combines both an online exhibition and then a series of Tourism Trails to drive visitors to the museums involved and the featured rivers.

The Toolkit developed by the then Arts NSW in 2016 can be downloaded at


Destination Management Plans.

The 2015 NSW Arts and Cultural Policy Framework, Create in NSW identifies one of the key actions to be actioned for Regional NSW as:

Promoting opportunities for cultural tourism through Destination Management Planning (DMP) — in consultation with the Regional Arts Network and Destination NSW.

This rightly identifies the potential of cultural tourism but needs to be seen in the context of the issues involved in making the connections between those in the regions involved in the arts and the tourism industry, or as now known in official jargon as “the visitor economy”.

Some of those issues are highlighted below to provide further insight how we might all move forward on this important action.

What is a Destination Plan?

The concept of Destination Management Plans in New South Wales formally came about in 2012/13 as an identified First Year Action of the Visitor Economy Action Plan. It became linked to funding requirements. It was not a new concept being long used in the United Kingdom. There was also an existing template, the Guide to Best Practice Destination Management, developed by the Australian Regional Tourism Network (ARTN) in association with the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Destination New South Wales created their own material and ran workshops but it was not in reality a process that resulted from grass roots agitation for such a planning and processes. I think it fair to say that many local tourism bodies and local Councils saw it simply as another hoop they would have to jump through to get funding from State government. The timeframe required to develop was very short. However there are a number of approved Destination Management Plans for the Mid North Coast from around that time including:

The Regional Plan. Regional Plan

Bellingen Council - See Coffs Coast Plan

Kempsey Council - Macleay Valley Coast Destination Management Plan

Nambucca Council - Check with Council as to final Plan

Port Macquarie Hastings – Destination Management Plan

Coffs Coast -

You Too can be Involved!

Part of the problem of incorporating Arts and Culture into Destination Management Planning is actually defining what is arts and culture. The DMP templates identify a number of categories of attractions but these are very prescriptive so clearly capture the obvious like museum, gallery, performance or event. What seems interesting to me is the templates focus on the elements of the tourism industry in this prescriptive way does not necessarily fit the focus of the supposed goals of the Visitor economy which is not about elements but more about connections and interactions. More important the focus of tourism is now about experiences rather than single attractions so that cultural tourism is about much more than say a gallery. On the Mid North Coast we have hundreds of visual artists (of varying quality and professionalism) Regardless of that there is more opportunity for them to exhibit in a café, restaurant or winery than in a gallery. It is the same for musicians and performance venues. In each case it is about the experience being offered that is the successful outcome or measure, not the location or venue per se.

Here are some ideas for cultural tourism experiences to be developed and promoted for whatever works best locally. All focus on connections, collaboration and cooperation.

  • Packaging attractions into trails and experiences. Check out Creative Coast Cultural Trails
  • Coordinating hours of opening of all museums to allow joint tickets or heritage pass.
  • Real rather than token admission prices to allow promotions, marketing etc.
  • Connections/ offers between accommodation providers and arts and culture venues with an admission price. Can be 2 for 1 offers rather than discounts.
  • Connections between theatres and one off events and local restaurants e.g. preshow early dinners or drinks.
  • Connections between tourism operators and artists to teach a skill. Could be accommodation providers or operators such as spa and pamper packages. A recent example in Port Macquarie is very innovative. Paint the Town Port delivers art classes in local cafes, bars and restaurants.
  • Encouraging activities for a night time economy
  • Encouraging use of existing schools education packages to be modified for holiday activities in peak family visit periods
  • Encouraging use of existing school packages to be used for adult events or enhanced to target Conference and Incentives market
  • Partners programs for MICE
  • Building on a “star cultural attraction”

All of these and other initiatives such as developing trails can be specific actions in a Destination Management Plan relevant to the region or locality and its assets and resources.

Cultural Tourism Snapshot

Destination NSW has identified cultural tourism as a significant market segment. A summary of relevant data for the whole State as at December 2017 including regional areas across both domestic and international tourists can be found at

It is important to note that Destination NSW uses the restrictive definition of cultural tourism:

Cultural tourism is a niche market segment with a focus on heritage and the arts. It includes activities such as going to the theatre, attending concerts, visiting an art show and watching an Aboriginal performance

Arts Mid North Coast prefers a broader definition such as:

Cultural tourism embraces a portfolio of information, experiences and activities that visitors can undertake to understand what makes a destination distinctive. It provides visitors with an opportunity to understand the essential character and culture of a place: its spirit, identity, values, diversity, traditions and sense of place… Cultural tourism activities can include meeting local people, visiting local attractions or attending arts and cultural venues and events. These activities need to authentic, informed quality experiences to successfully interpret what is unique and special about a place.

Tourism – Why be Involved?

Get Involved

You might ask what has tourism got to do with arts and culture? Well there are two main reasons to consider.

Cultural Tourism.

Cultural tourism provides visitors with an opportunity to understand the essential character and culture of a place: its spirit, identity, heritage, values, traditions and sense of place.

Two propositions in relation to cultural tourism are now well established by various studies :
Across the globe cultural tourism is one of the major growth sectors of tourism so any area with appropriate cultural product will see an increase in visitation.

Cultural tourism has a higher yield with cultural tourists generally spend more than other tourist types. And they stay longer!
Support for these propositions can be found not only internationally but in Australia. Major references include the comprehensive research undertaken by Tourism Victoria in its Arts, Theatres and Cultural Tourism Action Plan 2010-2014 and the 2009 Snapshot of Cultural Tourism by what is now Destination NSW.

Our Potential Audience
Tourism has the potential to deliver many more people to your venue or event rather than simply focus only on the locals who live in your community. The North Coast, which includes the Mid North Coast is now the 3rd most visited destination with Australians after Sydney and Melbourne. Latest figures indicate domestic tourists spend 10 million visitor nights on the Mid North Coast , that is 10 million days when they might take the opportunity to explore a gallery, go to an event or performance or explore our shared stories.


Tourism – How to be Involved?

There are a number of steps you can take with a number of low cost suggestions made below:


There will be a local Tourism Association in your community that you can talk to about joining and what they offer. Why not make the first contact and ask if you can come along to their next meeting to see how they work? The larger organisations are listed below but you may also have a smaller Chamber of Commerce or other local association in your community

  • MidCoast call 6554 8799, or email
  • Greater Port Macquarie Tourism Association. 0418 837 683 or email
  • Macleay Valley Coast Tourism. 6566 3113 or email
  • Nambucca Valley Tourism Association. 6568 6954, email
  • Tourism Coffs Coast. 6651 7766 or email

However there are a number of steps you can take yourself to build relationships and partnerships with the tourism industry.

  1. Check out accommodation providers near you. See if they have a website which highlights Local Things to See & Do and get listed. You can have an open day or get together to show a number what you do. If you are holding such an event you should invite others such as the volunteers that may work in the local Visitor Information Centre.
  2. See if there are operators that you can partner or package with. These may be other arts related or could be different package with an accommodation provider to give their guests a discount or a special tour or activity.
  3. If you have a flyer see if others will display your flyer, you may have to reciprocate. If you don’t have a flyer this maybe something package with other like operators.
  4. Explore relationships with local cafes, community hubs and gathering points to see who will display your flyers or event posters.
  5. Establish a relationship with your community paper and make sure you keep them informed of any change, new addition or special event you may be offering.


As the tourism agency for the North Coast region, Destination North Coast is well positioned to work with stakeholders to drive, coordinate and support the sustainable management and development of tourism across the region to help sustainably grow the North Coast visitor economy and in doing so support the NSW Government’s goal of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by the year 2020.

Contact Details
Suite 3/109 Molesworth Street, Lismore, NSW 2480  email
Telephone 61 2 6622 7429

State & National

Each year Destination NSW’s consumer website attracts millions of visits from consumers seeking travel information and booking assistance. In addition the site channel up to a million active sales leads directly to thousands of NSW tourism businesses. Your event or attraction can be part of this exposure.

However before operators can tap into this source of business they need to register their products and services on the central database managed by the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW) that feeds the product information to Australia’s official travel websites.
This is an excellent opportunity to get your product into the market place and all its takes is for you to GET CONNECTED It costs nothing, reaches millions of domestic and international travellers and will help your business reach its potential. So to register go to

Once registered you will as an attraction or an event get the chance to submit a 50 to 150 word description and high quality images which you can keep updated. Membership of Get Connected is required for funding opportunities such as the Regional Flagship grants.