TPDD funding halved; Council shifts tourism approach


Karlie Brady


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Douglas Shire Council has committed $860,000 to tourism, events, and economic development in its 2020/21 Budget, handed down yesterday, but it comes with some significant changes to their tourism strategy.

Developing new revenue streams, destination marketing, attracting investment and building the capacity of local businesses all feature in Council’s vision to help the region recover from COVID-19 and stimulate the economy.

Council yesterday resolved to continue its support of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) entering into a new agreement with a $250,000 injection to focus on domestic marketing activities for the next 12 months.

The new funding is almost half the amount of $496,000 per annum, that had been allocated to TPDD under the previous three-year agreement which expires this year.

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Mayor Michael Kerr said there will be a broader approach which hopes to see Council, TPDD, Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ), the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, and the newly created Tourism and Economic Development Officer (TEDO), “all working in harmony as one, taking this shire forward in one direction as a collective”.

Mayor Kerr said discussions had been had with TPDD and TTNQ to ensure adequate amounts of funding is secured for the agreement and the current conditions the Shire is facing.

“I believe this outcome is a balanced approach and one that the CEO and the Chair of TPDD have advised me is a workable amount,” Mayor Kerr said.

“We’ve made decisions that we have had to because of the situation of COVID-19.”

In a Council report tabled at yesterday’s Ordinary Meeting is states “Based on TPDD’s 2018/19 Annual Report, 40 per cent of their expenditure, not including travel for trade shows, was devoted to the international market. TPDD has operated on a budget surplus for three of the last four years and the amount of income from partnerships and grant activities increased 20 per cent in 2018/19 from the previous year.

“Domestic tourism contributes to 65 per cent of visitor numbers to the Douglas Shire. Trends in travel to the region after the Global Financial Crisis show that domestic travel is much faster to recover after a crisis than international visitor numbers.”

It went on to say: “A reduction in financial support to TPDD will not adversely affect their ability to target the increasingly important domestic tourism market by streamlining the more expensive aspects of destination marketing, attending trade shows and hosting ‘famils’, into more innovative branding and partnership opportunities," the report said.

Mayor Kerr said at the end of the 12-month agreement the contact will be reassessed.

“That will give us 12 months working with them and getting out of COVID to see where we are in 12 months.”

Tourism Port Douglas Daintree CEO Tara Bennett acknowledged the continued funding support from Council.

“I look forward to continue working closely with Douglas Shire Council and the Economic Recovery Group as we rebuild our economy and bring travellers back to this region,” she said.

Not all Councillors were in agreement on the funding amount, however, with Councillor Abigail Noli saying TPDD in the past has always delivered for Douglas.

“This reduced funding can only mean a reduced tourism influx into the area.

“I do not accept it,” she said.

She then went on to move an alternative motion to keep funding in line with the previous contract and continue it for three years, however, this did not get the support of the majority of councillors, so did not carry.

Mayor Kerr said Council will aim to broaden its economic development focus to encourage more people to not only buy in Douglas, but to build in Douglas.

“This will ensure greater confidence in investment, leading to job creation and security, commercial success and residential growth.”

Mayor Kerr said COVID-19 had revealed vulnerabilities and opportunities in the local economy and emphasised the need to change the approach.

“Council needs to pivot towards a local economy that is attractive to developers and investors in its own unique way and invest in ways that supports new residents to the Shire,” he said.

“A stronger, broader-based and resilient local economy will also give us the ability to continue to protect areas of our shire – the Daintree, our wonderful beaches, the reef, amongst others – that are crucial “natural” drivers of our tourism sector.”

A further $50,000 was also approved yesterday for the Douglas Chamber of Commerce to provide more support for small businesses in the Shire and further programs post COVID-19.

“I think it is extremely important that Council, TPDD and Chamber are all working on a new direction together to get us out of COVID 19,” Mayor Kerr said.

You can view the full Ordinary Council Meeting below. Discussion about TPDD begin at 58 minutes.

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