Methinks this is more a case of Destination Mis-management

Kudos to Tourism Noosa. You guys are doing an outstanding job. No, really. The place is jumping week after week, all year round. The shops and restaurants are jam-packed, the beaches bristle with CoolCabanas, and the visitors just keep on coming. 

Local businesses are ecstatic. Residents, not so much. No wonder, we ratepayers hand over $2.5m a year to TN to lure more people here to clog our roads, parks and supermarkets. Go figure.

And yet, fair play to the 14 (yes, 14) members of staff at Tourism Noosa and its seven-person board; if we elect a Council that creates such a marketing juggernaut then we can hardly blame you for doing your jobs so well. 

When it was set up in 2001 (and paid for by tourism-related businesses), TN had just five people and a low-key but highly-motivated approach to marketing our little piece of paradise.

Its original objective was to help local businesses survive between peak tourism periods such as school holidays and major events such as the Noosa Tri and various festivals. 

For many years, the TN’s successful strategy was – to paraphrase Noosa Parks Association in its excellent submission to the Destination Management Plan – “Value over Volume”. In other words, fewer, but higher-spending visitors. But, as a former TN board member told me, “We were keenly aware that over-visitation could have an adverse reaction with the residents and that the balance was delicate.”  

Twenty-odd years on, however, TN is now a much larger, more professionalised outfit with positions such as ‘Plastic Free Noosa Program Manager’ and ‘Tourism Sustainability Manager’. Along the way, it seems to have hit the delete button on the “delicate balance” side of things. According to its 2020-2023 Destination Noosa Strategy, TN’s vision & purpose is: “Through excellence in marketing, position Noosa as the most desirable and sustainable tourism destination for our visitors, provide economic benefit and value for our members, our community and tourism sectors.” 

There are also references to the “Noosa Brand”, “the visitor experience and journey curation”, but not a single mention of residents to be found or, for that matter, preserving the qualities that make Noosa unique and iconic. Despite our $2.5m contribution.

As I write, our Council has just completed a commendable, if clunky survey of residents, institutions, organisations and businesses, designed to provide intel that will feed into its much-vaunted Destination Management Plan. The DMP is described on the Council website as “… a blueprint for protecting a community’s key values, while guiding the evolution of a tourism industry that considers the interest of all stakeholders.” There, Councillor Frank Wilkie asserts that it is a “future-setting conversation”. Whatever that means

But beyond the jargon and corporate speak, the reality is that a showdown between the people paid to bring evermore visitors to our doorstep and the long-suffering residents who pay their costs is looming. According to Noosa Today, 84% of respondents to a local Liveability Survey said that tourism was disrupting their lives. 

And they will probably have amplified that in their responses to the DMP survey with references to the drip-drip of day trippers, the gush of interstate visitors and what has been described as a ‘tsunami of overseas tourists’ since TN was created 22 years ago. 

This constant assault on the ineffable essence of Noosa isn’t just frustrating for residents, many high-spending inter-staters who have been coming here annually for generations now say it’s too busy, and they’ll try elsewhere. To be replaced, presumably, by low-spending day-trippers. That’s a classic case of trading volume for value. Quantity over quality.

In short, isn’t it time to put the emphasis on ‘Management’ rather than ‘Destination’? I fully understand that tourism is vital to Noosa Shire’s future. I get it. All of us lucky enough to live here get it. But the NPA is spot-on when it says: “Resident amenity should take priority over visitor experience.” 

As the TN jargonistas might say: ‘It’s time to circle back, stop drinking the corporate Kool-Aid and pivot to our original mission.” That was, if you remember, to make Noosa a place where businesses thrive while visitors and residents enjoy its stunning landscape and sensational lifestyle, all in a delicate balance. 

Perhaps next year’s Council elections will bring a fresh focus on what I can only describe as the current  ‘Destination Mis-Management’. And stop Tourism Noosa from doing such a great job.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Quite right, Bella. It’s happening everywhere. In fact, a week or so ago I saw a headline in the Weekend Australian: ‘This Queensland beach is the new Noosa”, and I immediately thought, there goes Peregian!

  2. Avatar

    This is not uncommon around the world – New Zealand as a destination has similar problems. The solution is of course to elect reps that advocate for balance with a slight bent for the residents. Bring on the debate during the next local elections.

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