Unashamed self-congratulation promoted within the visitor industry by George Sossi of Ballarat Regional Tourism is justified (The Courier 26 March 2013). The rise in 2012 Ballarat domestic overnight and day visitor numbers, estimated as 19.9% and 3%, is founded on a decade of collaborative effort.
Let George, Ballarat operators, state and national tourism associations, continue their work to grow visitor numbers. Increasing the dollar contribution of visitors to Ballarat could help an economy vulnerable to restructure in manufacturing and agricultural sectors. In 2012 $35.5billion was injected into regional tourism destinations.
Coaxing more dollars from visitors is not just for tourism operators. With an estimated 38% of visitor nights attributed to staying with friends or relatives, leveraging the indirect spend of local hosts presents an opportunity for the wider Ballarat business community.
Using online and mobile friendly eMarketing platforms can play a role in increasing the multiplier effect of the tourism industry. The government-funded Central Highlands Digital Enterprise project managed through University of Ballarat, has worked with Ballarat Regional Tourism to train operators in Social Media and eMarketing.
The future for many rural and regional economies will be brokered on the capacity of small to medium enterprises to innovate, learn, and adopt new technologies. FREE training to position Ballarat as a vibrant ‘digitally savvy’ market economy is being made accessible to even the smallest operator. Ballarat Regional Tourism has proven that even in a tough economic climate, collaborative and collective effort can achieve record results. Retailers and service providers would do well to take a lesson from the tourism industry. Digital Enterprise is key to economic growth.