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. This is combined into their Economic Development Plan
Kempsey Council - Macleay Valley Coast Destination Management Plan
Nambucca Council Destination Management Plan
Port Macquarie Hastings – Destination Management Plan
Coffs Coast has just produced a new Tourism Plan which covers both Coffs Harbour and Bellingen which has been approved and should be online by end of June 2016. Arts Mid North Coast made detailed submissions on this.
Indeed Arts Mid North Coast will be reviewing and participating in all new Plan as they come up for renewal with particular regard to cultural tourism Port Macquarie and Mid Coast Council may start those processes in 2016.
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.