Byron Shire Council TOURISM DEVELOPMENT PLAN 2008-2018 This by lindash


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                          Byron Shire Council


                      This plan is bound to fail

Byron Shire Council recently commissioned a Tourism Development Plan which
            was developed for them by Southern Cross University.

    A review by Advance Tourism shows this is a “product driven” plan offering
             negligible benefit for private sector tourism businesses.
                      The plan fails to recognise the following
 •    The end result of all activities in tourism is to attract customers and drive
         them into businesses so they can contribute to the local economy
      • Byron Bay and other destinations in the Shire area are in a tough
     competitive environment and the drop in visitor numbers is directly due to
                   market share being lost to other destinations
•     For tourism to be successful, the private sector needs to be prosperous so
     that the Byron Shire area, as a destination, can adopt competitive, modern
      marketing strategies to build new demand in distant markets and protect
                            against market share losses.

  Bryon Shire Council’s plan will be enthusiastically embraced by the public
sector because it is a typical public sector, academically driven plan. But the
private sector will see it as failing to address their needs which is to deliver a
more prosperous tourism industry so tourism businesses can actually deliver
                      visitor dollars to the local economy.

                               COMMENTS FROM

                              Norm White, Director
                               Advance Tourism
                        Ph 03 9888 1572 Mob 0409 198 531
                               17 November 2008
                          Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

                      ASSESSMENT OF THIS

This assessment of the Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan 2008-2018 has
drawn on a lifetime of experience in tourism management, marketing and business
both at the strategic and operational levels. The author’s career includes a track
record of many successful industry appointments and tourism projects.

Most tourism plans produced in Australia’s tourism industry are produced by persons
with little or no first hand commercial experience in the private sector, either
strategically, operationally or in more than one or two states. Nor do they have
business management experience in a senior appointment.

Successful commercial industries use professional strategic planners to lead
development and formulation of strategic plans with input from experienced industry

Successful development plans and successful strategic plans are not wish lists or
based on guesses. They are carefully prepared and tested to meet the commercial
needs of the industry.

By comparison, many tourism plans are adversely affected by the political influences
of the government-of-the-day or Council involved. They feel they must use taxpayer
or ratepayer funds to support their political policies with the commercial needs of
the private sector being a secondary consideration or not considered at all.

Fundamental to all development plans and strategic plans are the end outcomes
which are all commercially driven to attract investors and/or growth of existing

If your organisation would like to use a proven and experienced tourism consultant
to guide the development of your Tourism Development Plans or Strategic Plans,
give Norm White a call at Advance Tourism Mob 0409 198 531 or (03) 9888 1572
for further details.

For more information about Advance Tourism visit
and click on “Our experience”. See also our library of free tourism references and
back copies of our newsletter, Snapshots.

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                            Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

                                 Byron Shire Council
                        TOURISM DEVELOPMENT PLAN

                          This plan is bound to fail
                  This plan is mostly focused on issues that the
                       public sector regards as important.

    The plan ignores that private sector businesses of Byron Shire are in fact
    the Shire’s tourism industry. Nor does the Plan recognise that the private
       sector needs revenues from customers and profits to be successful.

    Any Ten Year Plan needs to consider future trends and anticipate future
    developments. This Ten Year Plan does not have a focus on the future.
                      It relies far too much on the past.

This plan does not consider the dramatic impact of the significant changes to the
tourism industry’s operating environment since 2000 including
•    Introduction of the Internet and the explosion of e-marketing and e-business
•    Revolution with bookings caused by the introduction of online bookings which
     consumers have embraced enthusiastically
•    Unprecedented new distribution channels and their targeted marketing approach
     to marketing,
•    Restructuring of travel agent operations following the cessation of airline
•    Introduction of low cost airlines and the revolution this has caused with travel
     patterns by Australians,
•    State Governments ignoring the slump in domestic tourism
•    State Governments ignoring the loss of market share of domestic destinations to
     outbound tourism,
•    Changes in market attitudes towards Byron Bay as a popular destination,
•    Need for Byron Shire to have effective destination marketing strategies that are
     competitive and target business
•    No proposals for a market demand study to determine market attitudes towards
     the Byron Shire to see why the destination has lost market share and to guide
     future direction of marketing strategies.

This Tourism Development Plan is based on the past practices of the 20th century
which are of very little value in the 21st century.

The agricultural industry in Byron Shire comprises small businesses such as farmers that
grow food products, diary farmers who produce milk and other farmers with livestock.

The tourism industry in Byron Shire comprises small businesses that provide visitors with
accommodation, attractions, hospitality and retail outlets.

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                              Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

It is these small private sector businesses that are the basis of the agricultural industry and
the tourism industry in the local community. The Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan
regards tourism businesses in the Shire area as being virtually irrelevant.
Customers (visitors) of Byron Shire tourism industry don’t live locally. They live in distant
markets which are very competitive. Visitors have to be attracted to Byron Shire by effective
destination marketing which targets business with product offers. The Byron Shire Tourism
Development Plan pays no attention to this very important factor for success. The plan
assumes that customers will come, just because a plan has been produced. Product can be
developed endlessly but if customers don’t get to learn about what is on offer, how will they
know to come? And what guarantee is there that any products Byron Shire develops will be
of interest to customers in distant markets where there is a huge array of other destination
and product choices?

Another fallacy of the Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan is the “old fashioned”
philosophy of “build it and they will come”. What rubbish! This out-of-date notion has been
discredited by modern marketing practices which have not been embraced in this plan (see
“Impact on the Operating Environment” below).

Tourism is a commercial industry. It comprises private sector businesses that, unlike other
industries, have to compete for customers at two levels
•   At the individual business level, and
•   In distant markets with effective destination marketing.

Customers for most local businesses in other industries live locally but tourism customers
live elsewhere and have to be attracted in a tough competitive environment from distant

Being successful at both levels is essential if the industry is to prosper and contribute to local

Public sector fixation with product issues, often out of context, is of dubious value to the
industry and the community. Tourism is like supermarkets. It must have products to sell but
it must also have customers coming to the supermarket (and not going to another
supermarket) to buy those products. One without the other cannot deliver success.

Can anyone imagine the national networks of Qantas, Woolworths, McDonalds and other
major commercial operations producing strategic or development plans being formulated
without considering all the factors that can impact on the commercial success of the
operation. But it is common practice across Australia for State Tourism Organisations and
Councils to ignore the commercial operation and prosperity of the private sector in their
tourism plans.

Byron Shire tourism destinations have been losing market share for some time. Other
destinations are now more competitive including the backpacker market which is choosing to
stay and swim at nearby destinations, not at Byron Bay. This loss is not a product
development issue, it is a marketing issue. Byron Bay’s competitors went after the business
and attracted it away to the detriment of Byron Shire businesses. This level of competition is
what tourism is about in the 21st century, only few in the public sector acknowledge this

If Byron Shire area is to be more successful, it needs to recognise
•   It is operating in a very competitive situation,
•   It takes defined, competitive, destination marketing strategies to win the business
    (visitors). The policies and practices of the 20th century do not work any more.

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                              Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

Flaw in Plan No. 1 The first flaw in the plan is that there was no-one on Council’s
Committee or on the Steering Committee who had first hand private sector strategic
business experience in tourism industry operations. It is hard to recognise anyone on either
of the Committees with a private sector industry background at senior level. How do people
who have not had senior level, private sector experience in the commercial operations of the
tourism industry understand the wider aspects of industry operations?

Byron Shire tourism industry operates in isolation as if it is an island. In fact, it is part of a
world wide industry which has been buffeted since 2000 in Australia by some unprecedented
industry developments. They have been having an adverse impact on the results of the
Byron Shire tourism industry. They include
•   The Internet. This has become the most powerful marketing and business tool in the
    world’s tourism industry and Australia is no exception. Byron Shire tourism industry has
    not kept pace with these developments and results are now being penalised as a result
•   Online bookings. The market has embraced this technology with enthusiasm and Byron
    Shire’s tourism industry competitors are using it to grab market share from Byron Shire
•   Impact of new distribution policies. The Internet has led to a wide range of new
    distribution channels which collectively now have significant “clout” and offer new
    business opportunities in the market place. These channels are also very effective with
    making offers using e-marketing. Again Byron Shire tourism industry is missing out
•   Low Cost Carriers. Introduction of low cost airlines within Australia and from overseas
    has had a huge impact on airline operating policies and passenger traffic for most
    Australian destinations. Byron Shire is no exception. Being between Ballina and
    Coolangatta airports puts Byron Shire in a vulnerable position. The Tourism Development
    Plan pays no attention to this important factor.
•   State Governments, except Queensland, have largely been ignoring domestic tourism. As
    a result, demand for domestic destinations has been suffering. While State Governments
    continue with this negative attitude, Byron Shire tourism industry can only suffer. More
    product will not make one iota of difference to this problem - only more effective
    destination marketing but this is not recommended in the plan
•   State Governments have been neglecting the loss of market share from domestic
    destinations to off-shore destinations and not reacting. Only more effective destination
    marketing can make a difference but this is not recommended in the plan
•   Changes in overseas markets and visitor trends have already impacted on demand for
    Byron Shire as a destination. And there are other changes coming.

The Byron Council and the Byron Shire tourism industry should be asking the experts on the
Steering Committee why they did not examine these important issues

Flaw in Plan No. 2 The points above are very pertinent and should have been examined.
This is what happens when a plan for a commercial industry is developed only by the public
sector without input from private sector stakeholders with a background in tourism business
Not included in the list above is a competitive assessment. This ranges across a wide range
of issues like
•   Emergence of so many destination choices for customers in Australia and off-shore which
    threatens Bryon Shire visitation levels particularly as many competitors for Byron Shire
    are very professional marketers and better resourced
•   Effective marketing that targets business. Most in the public sector think the word
    “marketing” means “advertising and promotion” which is not correct. Marketing is more
    about targeting business of which advertising and promotion is part of the process.
    Byron Shire tourism industry is losing business because its marketing is not competitive,
    particularly in the backpacker segment where competitors have succeeded in attracting
    customers away

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                                Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

•    Byron Shire tourism industry is not competitive with its use of the Internet, online
     booking systems and distribution channels
•    Byron Shire tourism industry is not competitive because it does not have a properly
     structured tourism unit to deliver effective destination marketing strategies and customer
     service standards. Present structures are too “hit and miss”. See below for further

Flaw in Plan No. 3 This Tourism Development Plan has not paid any attention to the
primary issues which directly impact on the commercial performance of the Byron Shire
tourism industry.
This plan is supposed to be the blueprint to take the Byron Shire tourism industry forward
over the next decade, 2008-2018. Close examination of the plan shows a preoccupation with
the present and the past. There is no relevant information about future developments and
trends that can be anticipated and likely to impact on Byron Shire tourism industry results.

Important issues like understanding future trends, helping the private sector to be more
prosperous, targeting new markets, targeting new market segments, alliances with other
tourism groups for cooperative marketing, etc are not mentioned. This plan assumes that
the customers will come just because a plan has been produced. This plan will prove to be
completely worthless unless the important issues listed in this review are addressed.

Flaw in Plan No. 4 The plan is driven by public sector issues and neglects the important
issues important to future commercial operations which need to be addressed.

         The New Zealand Government, Queensland Government and Northern Territory
      Government all recognise the importance of a prosperous private sector in their Tourism
    Plans. But most State Governments and other public sector driven organisations in Australia
                            fail to address this as an important issue.

This is the Vision Statement in the plan

       To foster a sustainable, cooperative approach for tourism in Byron Shire that cares
       and respects for its residents, protects its natural and low-key built environments,
       celebrates its cultural diversity and social values, and shares these unique and rich
       experiences with its visitors while providing a viable industry sector that contributes
       to its community and environment.

This statement highlights one of the major drawbacks to better results for the Byron Shire
tourism industry. It shows that Byron Shire has a very narrow view and that it sees the
needs of residents coming first when a balanced approach is needed (people employed in
tourism, along with their families, are residents too). If tourism is not successful the Council
will be delivering fewer economic and social benefits for residents because tourism
businesses will be under-performing and attracting less visitors to spend their money with all
kinds of local businesses. This could lead to a reduction in local jobs.

Any Council officials who are very anti-tourism need to understand that their negativity can
prove costly to the residents of the community if members of rate paying families lose their
jobs or their businesses fail.

The Vision Statement for this plan should read

       To foster a sustainable, prosperous Byron Shire tourism industry over the next
       decade by sharing the unique and rich experiences of the Byron Shire area with

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                                 Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

     visitors in a way that it protects its natural and low-key built environments as well
     as its cultural diversity.

Including the following words in the Vision Statement sends the wrong message about the
tourism industry to the community and others

     cooperative approach for tourism in that cares and respects for its residents,
     celebrates its and social values, and shares while providing a industry sector that
     contributes to its community and environment.

The tourism industry is always mindful to protect the environment because that is the
leading product strength for the industry in Byron Shire.

Flaw in Plan No. 5 The Vision Statement screams out that local politics are far more
important than the business results of tourism, a leading commercial industry and economic
generator for the region. A greater respect for tourism is needed as a contributor to the local
lifestyle and the local economy as an employer, purchaser of local products and an industry
that spends money on marketing outside the region to attract visitors. Without this activity,
tourism industry results can only suffer.

The present industry structure is far from adequate and penalises existing results.

Successful destinations have a basic industry structure as follows

      Successful destinations do not           Tourism Board        Council involvement in Tourism
          have Tourism Advisory                                     Boards is to provide a Council
               Committees.                                             representative usually a
       They have Tourism Boards                                                Councillor
    comprised of industry stakeholders
      with proven business acumen                 Tourism

                    Marketing                    Visitor Info              Admin &
                    activities                     Centre                  Finance

Staffing of the structure differs from place to place but the fundamentals are followed by
successful destinations.

Byron Shire tourism industry has a complicated industry structure unlike anywhere else
which is not helping the Byron Shire tourism industry to manage day-to-day operations in a
competitive manner. There is also a complete lack of professional destination marketing.

Byron United has been attempting to put in place better arrangements but local politics
seem to be preventing progress. The Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan does not
address important leadership and management issues which are inhibiting better results. As
an analogy, not putting forward a suitable leadership and management structure is like
commissioning a plan for the future operations of Byron Shire Council and not including any
Councillors or management team.
Importance of an industry structure
Without a practical industry structure, how does Byron Shire Council expect the industry to
embrace its Ten Year Plan or is this plan only to guide Council? Unless the private sector of
the industry sees some merit in the plan and develops some “Ownership” for the plan, it is
hard to see how it will have any chance of succeeding.

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                                  Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

Much reliance is placed in the plan on a Tourism Victoria report on this issue. Two factors
need to be considered
•    Tourism Victoria is one of Australia’s finest tourism bureaucracies but has a very poor
     reputation with the private sector in that state. Tourism Victoria shows no understanding
     of the importance of private sector commercial operations, and
•    The recent series of excellent seminars around Australia sponsored by Qantas put
     sustainability in a completely different light. Unlike Tourism Victoria, these seminars
     indicated the economic success of the private sector is very important to the future
     development and sustainability of the industry.

Figure 2 on page 4 of Byron Shire’s Tourism development Plan makes no reference to the
important role of the private sector in the tourism industry, this is taken for granted when it
is actually the private sector that generates the economic wealth for the community

Page 5 of the plan indicates that this whole process for Byron Shire Council was more about
the community and local government than the commercial performance of the Byron Shire
tourism industry. Phase One is clearly a product driven phase with limited opportunity for
commercial issues to be considered. Phase Two indicates that politics is a significant factor.
Sadly, Byron Shire Council seems to always come down on the side of vocal constituents
who have a bias against the economic wellbeing of this commercial industry which delivers
many benefits for the community.


    Across New Zealand, Queensland and Northern Territory, tourism organisations at regional
    destinations are managed as business units and focus on a strong commercial performance. The
    aim is for a prosperous private sector supported by coordinated product development programs.

    In other states, including NSW, there are very few destinations managed as business units. Most
    have been bureaucratised and operate as an extension of the State Tourism Organisation.

    An option for a business driven Byron Shire tourism organisation is not canvassed in the plan.

A recommendation of the report is that Council implement a tourism and business levy.
Experience elsewhere shows that tourism and other businesses are inclined to be more
supportive of such a proposal where they have confidence that the funds will be
•    Used specifically for programs that target business results
•    Well managed by people who understand the business of tourism and use the funds to
     target business results. At destinations where the funds are controlled by the public
     sector, they inevitably want to use these funds for promotional activities favoured by the
     public sector but usually produce no commercial results. Where this occurs, Councils
     often find themselves in an ongoing controversy over the strong reluctance of the private
     sector to support the scheme or they want to see the funds used differently.

Research recommendation
On page 13, the plan recommends the establishment of a data collection system to gather
historical data. This will serve little purpose which is why it has not become a universal
practice. However, the idea is popular with the public sector and academics in the industry.

The best approach is to have a mechanism to record trends with the visitor booking volumes
and business revenues being written. Nothing impresses more than having businesses
enjoying increased bookings and sales growth. It also tends to govern thinking at all levels
when targets are being used to drive results.

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                             Byron Shire Tourism Development Plan

Tourism Education and Communications Program
This is another idea which would have come from the public sector or the academic sector.
The private sector would prefer to see the resources involved in such a program channelled
into attracting visitors and obtaining a maximum spend from such visitors. Growth of visitors
and growth of spend together with new jobs created is the best way to demonstrate the
value of tourism to the community.


Branding and Image
Branding and image is always a “big deal” with the public sector but you don’t see the
private sector getting too interested. The reason is that Branding does not deliver customers
(visitors). What the private sector usually does is to design its marketing so that the
branding and products available for purchase are combined into advertisements.

Like many regional destinations today, Byron Shire’s problem right now is not branding nor
image, it is a loss of business because local destination marketing (targeting business
opportunities) is not competitive. Branding campaigns will not affect this situation one iota.

Developing events is a splendid proposal. However, new events cannot be staged without
people and money to make it happen. Many event proposals, in plans like this one, fall flat
because they don’t have the essential logistical support and skilled managements to make
them happen. Adequate lead time for effective marketing in distant markets is also essential
to ensure their success.

Missing vital ingredient
What is missing from this whole plan is any program designed to provide the private sector
with what it needs most – effective market demand studies and market driven strategies to
deliver more customers. Without these issues being developed more comprehensively, the
plan is bound to fail.

Who is going to make the plan happen?
The last and very important question is – Who will have the responsibility to make sure this
plan actually happens? Or will it become another “government” report which gathers dust
while the Byron Shire tourism industry and community are no better off?

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