Interview on ABC Illawarra Mornings with Nick Rheinberger

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Possible visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; bushfire recovery program for fire-affected regions.
12 February 2020

Nick Rheinberger: On the day that we’ve been getting you to pitch your South Coast experience to the royals, Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, has just released a new initiative. It’s a $10 million, quote, tourism, events and visitor attractions initiative to support communities and protect local jobs. He says tourism is the lifeblood of many fire-affected communities and the aim of this program is to get tourists back to these regions. I spoke to Simon Birmingham a little while ago and got him to explain this program.

[Excerpt]

Simon Birmingham: Well good morning, Nick. This is $10 million out of the $76 million that the Morrison Government committed to help our tourism industry right across Australia recover reputationally from the damage of the fires but also particularly to help the fire-affected regions and this 10 mil is exclusive to fire-affected regions. They will be able to apply for either two types of grants. There’s a very immediate process of small grants around up to about $30,000 that they can access applications for that open next week and that’s for small events, small promotional activities or the like then they can also apply for much bigger grants and applications for those can be made in about four weeks’ time. And you know, that will be really about lifting regular events and festivals, bigger promotional activities.

All of it of course is aimed about getting visitors to come, particularly now outside of the peak season. I know that so many tourism providers across the Illawarra make so much of their money and their revenue comes during the summer period and they’ve lost all of that opportunity now. What we want to do is try to help them through the rest of this year before we get to next summer to have enough spikes in visitation to help kick their cash flow along.

Nick Rheinberger: Now, you say this is for events or for small promotional campaigns. Can an individual business apply for one of these grants? Or is it going to have to be something about an event which takes in a whole town?

Simon Birmingham: It is funding that’s targeted to councils, regional tourism organisations, regional development organisations, so it has to take in the town, the community, the local area in some way. So these aren’t business specific grants but it is about trying to undertake the type of promotions or events that can get a town booked out over the course of a weekend and spread that benefit from the hotel and the caravan park through the restaurants, the pubs and the cafes.

Nick Rheinberger: Right. So it’s $30,000 at a time. Can you create a new event out of this or is this to promote existing events? Do we have any idea on that?

Simon Birmingham: All of the above. So- so this is really limited only by the imagination of communities. In many cases, the simplest thing may well be to take an existing good local event that might simply attract people from the local community and adjoining towns and actually put that on steroids a little bit, if you like, sort of in terms of promoting it more strongly into the Sydney market or the Canberra market and using the fact that that event is happening as a leverage to remind people that the bushfires might have passed, that that immediate outpouring of sympathy might have moved on. But if you really want to help these communities to recover then the best thing that people can do is make a booking and go and stay and spend a couple of days and spend a few bucks in the local community.

Nick Rheinberger: Now(*), it’s called a local government area- I mean let's say if the Shoalhaven apply for multiple grants with multiple events?

Simon Birmingham:  Yes, that may well be possible. It will be up to communities between councils, tourism organisations, business organisations to organise themselves and work out. We have, as the Federal Government, tried to make this as flexible as possible. There’s a three-person advisory panel who I’ve appointed with one person each for New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia just to look over the applications. They come in, give them a sense to- but also provide some feedback if they can to say well, you know, this might be even better if you were to partner with another organisation or two to bring in this extra bit of idea around how it might operate. And I'm pleased that Sandra Chipchase, the former head of Destination New South Wales has agreed to be the New South Wales nominee on that process. So obviously, she's well skilled to provide some value-add hopefully in terms of looking at those applications.

Nick Rheinberger: And what can you tell me about the latest with the most high-profile visitors who are planning a trip to some of our bushfire affected areas, Kate and William? What’s the story there?

Simon Birmingham:  Yes Nick, well, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and William, they’ve been clearly very strong in extending their sympathies and thoughts to the fire-affected communities. The government has been having discussions with Kensington Palace for a little while now about the possibility of a royal visit and the expectation is the Prime Minister will write to them in coming days outlining possible dates, possible locations. Tragically, there are no shortage of fire-affected communities that they could visit and they clearly won't be able to visit everywhere.

But I think, you know, what will be crucial out of their visit is not just the people's whose lives they touch and the individuals and communities they interact with in terms of the fire-affected communities but also that we get good images back to the rest of the world about the fact that there are still pristine beaches, there’s recovering bushland, still wildlife and amazing experiences that people can have because Australia had some shocking publicity over the New Year period. There were of course those misleading maps that circulated around the world suggesting the whole country was on fire, and what we really need is to leverage this visit for some positive publicity that shows well and truly that there are still wonderful positive experiences to be had and that Australia is well worth visiting still.

[End of excerpt]

Nick Rheinberger: That’s the Senator John- beg your pardon, Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

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