I see from the Northern Daily Leader that Tamworth has pulled out of the New England-North West Regional Tourism organisation. Seriously, I can understand Tamworth's position. Tourism branding in NSW is an absolute mess.
Some localities in New England have been able to establish themselves as a brand, some have not. Tamworth, Byron Bay and Coff Harbour have been succesful, Newcastle and Armidale have failed.
Some regions have been able to establish themselves as a brand, some have not. The Hunter Valley has, the Clarence River and the New England Tablelands have failed.
Tamworth's membership of the New-England North West Regional Tourism organisation cost $55,000 per annum with almost no pay back. This is not a criticism of that organisation, I run more Big Sky stories than other areas because they promote hard. In fact, just as I write, a new release from them has come through. Thank you Ingrid.
The problem is that tourism branding in New England has little to do with market realities, much to do with institutional structures.
Tourism promotion takes a lot of time and at least some money. It requires a clear understanding of just what areas can offer, understanding of potential markets, a coherent message sustained over a long period.
I have been involved in one way or another with the promotion of New England for more years than I care to remember. As part of this, I have had some direct involvement in the promotion of New England tourism for more than a decade.
Bluntly, New England tourism has gone back over the last sixty years despite specific local successes such as Tamworth country music, Coffs Coast or the Hunter. At the moment, I have little expectation that this will change.
New England has some of Australia's greatest attractions, it has a history that offers interest and rewards, it has special life-style features. Yet, somehow, it fails to grab.
My fear is that this will continue.