Note to readers: This post is one in a series using personal examples to illustrate why I continue to support both agitation for New England self-government and self-government itself. Agitation, because its very existence forces forces the Sydney Government to consider New England interests. Self-government, because there are some things that we cannot achieve without this.
When I was chair of Tourism Armidale, we set ourselves the target of doubling visitor spend to the city and surrounding regions. To do this, we needed to increase visitor numbers and the amount that people spent while visiting. Increasing the average length of stay was critical to the second.
During my time as chair there were a number of examples that I could use as illustrations in this series. This post deals with one, visitor statistics.
Effective planning starts with data about the current position. While out core focus was on the domestic Australian marketplace, we were also interested in international visitors. Here we found almost no usable information at all. The only New England data available was aggregated data on the Hunter and Coffs Habour.
When we investigated this, we found that the international visitor data was based on surveys and that, as part of this, each state or territory was allowed to nominate (from memory) twelve attractions for inclusion in the survey. New England got two of the twelve.
By contrast, Cockington Green (a miniature village in the ACT) was identified as an attraction in its own right. So we had very little information for an entire region, while the ACT obtained information on a relatively small local attraction.
There was no way to overcome this problem other than paying for our own survey, something that we could not afford as a community organisation. Any additional New England inclusions in the exiting system required a Sydney attraction to be dropped, and that was not going to happen.
This type of problem was replicated time and time again during my time as chair and still holds today. Clearly this is a case where self-government would have been a major help since the state of New England would have had its own section in the survey, including twelve attractions.