Destination Noosa, but who’s driving?

Having watched Noosa Council’s EOI (Expressions of Interest) process leading to the appointment of its DMP (Destination Management Plan) PCG (project Control Group), it’s hard to see how this acronym-led process will wind up in anything other than an almighty SNAFU.

No idea what this all means?  You’re not alone.  You have most of Noosa Council and the Noosa community joining you.  You can hear the head scratching.

So what is all of this about?

Unless you have just arrived here, you will be aware that high on our list of critical challenges is that Noosa has become a community version of a giant Airbnb party house, one with thousands of visitors clogging the driveway and seething, sleepless neighbours all around.

And, in this case, we spend about $2.6 million of ratepayers’ money each year propping up Tourism Noosa and inviting those visitors. 

Exacerbated by the phenomenon of online list aggregators (primarily Airbnb) residential neighbourhoods have become home/hotel zones, often to the detriment of our traditional tourism operators.

When Covid closed our borders, Tourism Noosa jettisoned the decades of ‘high-end-big-spend’ tourism marketing and replaced it overnight with a bums-on-seats approach, almost all of them arriving by car.

When you make such a desperate, profound change in marketing, you don’t get to change back to where you were overnight.  

Tourism, or over-tourism, has seeped into every street. Congestion is a talking point in every café.  ‘Timing your run to the shops’ is now part of the daily routine.

The rising anger in our residential, Airbnb neighbourhoods is palpable.  Many in the community perceive a Council that acts as a captured client of the tourism industry it supports with our money. 

If we are more of a destination than a home, then who is managing this ‘destination’ we call Noosa? Certainly not our elected Council.

How can we sustain a tourism industry and the jobs it generates without destroying the reason people came to live here?

Best practice Destination Management is a holistic process that ensures tourism adds value to the economy, social fabric and ecology of our communities. Tourism can be an economic driver, generating jobs and contributing vibrant lifestyle benefits to our communities. But equally tourism needs to be managed to ensure that it leaves a positive legacy for current and future generations.

Austrade definition of Destination Management

And so we come back to those acronyms.  

On Thursday, Council announced the three ‘community’ representatives that will join its PCG (remember the Project Control Group?) and all have strong experience in either the academic or practical side of Destination Management.  

Nathaniel Bromley, Wayne Kayler-Thomson and Michael Tarrant have, between them, more idea of what Destination Management actually means than either Tourism Noosa or our Council.  We’re lucky to have them involved.

But while these are locals, they are not ‘community’ representatives.  This is more of an ‘expert’ group bolted on to an already-formed panel of Councillors and the tourism industry.  

As a Council afterthought, the other 26 ‘community’ representatives who didn’t make this group will be offered a place on a much bigger, circular talkfest, a community panel to be known, with tongue in cheek, as Community Representatives Assisting Planning.   DIY acronym.

Here are three pertinent quotes from Thursday’s Council meeting;

Cr. Brian Stockwell:  There may be some misunderstanding about what we’re doing here. This is not like a community reference group. We’ve asked for people with high level experience to provide strategic guidance for this project.  

Cr. Frank Wilkie:  We’re not abrogating our decision-making responsibilities.  There will be hard decisions that have to be made by Councillors in the final wash-up.

Cr Tom Wegener:  I have sincere reservations about how this is going forward.  I hope it exceeds my expectations.

Indeed Tom, we all do.

However, nothing in the rapidly changing and convoluted Destination Management process to date gives the Noosa Community any reasonable expectations that it will be heard above the loud voices of vested industry interests.  

The community should be a co-driver of this hugely important process, not thrown into the back seat as an afterthought.


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