Democracy was up the creek without a paddle in September as the Midcoast Council bulldozed through a bewildering and divisive decision to adopt the Barrington Coast as our expanded region’s tourism destination name.
Former Taree Mayor Eddie Loftus and former MidCoast Business Chamber President Graham Brown were just two of many business identities saying “What!”
Former MidCoast councillor Jim Morwitch wrote: “The best path to successful promotion of tourism by MidCoast Council is to ditch the notion of having one overarching destination name. This will require substantial expenditure just to explain the concocted Barrington Coast name.
“Instead, build upon the substantial tourism investments of the past and the very solid foundations and successes that have been achieved by continuing to promote the three regions separately, highlighting their specific attractions.
Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said, “I was not contacted by council or their consultant to provide input on the name nor was I offered a briefing on the name or strategy. And in travelling around Mid Coast communities big and small and talking with people at pubs, clubs and coffee shops, I have not come across anyone who believes this name best represents our region or what we have to offer.”
Wait there’s more! Community consultation meetings in Taree and Forster with residents who were overwhelmingly against the Barrington Coast branding, were missing one key element: consultation. Everyone also wants to know why was MidCoast Council in such a hurry to bulldoze this through?
They not only ignored the populace, their panic to quickly press green buttons can possibly be put down to the dollar rewards suggested by the consultants.
I have a background in destination research, marketing and promotion, and I believe that the Barrington Coast branding is unlikely to generate anything like the projected $695 million annual boost to the local economy.
I suggest the original premise that caused confusion over Mid Coast or Mid North Coast boundaries is costing us incremental visitation, as it was flawed.
John and Jim Morwitch agree that most new visitors would not care, nor need to know a region’s precise boundaries when doing their own research. And they both suggest, as did Graham Brown, that MidCoast or the Mid North Coast needed time to work.
“Our amalgamated tourist region is both large and diverse”, adds John. “So any single tourism identity cannot kick in as a major initial source of new visitation until it has been going many years like the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Central Coast.
“The Mid Coast brand (which has probably strengthened Mid North Coast awareness) has only been going two years. If you look at the graph for the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast destination brands, their brand awareness was miniature in early years and increased exponentially to become massive over 60 years.
“Short-term thinking invaded Australian culture around the turn of this century, and is borne out by the replacement of NSW Premiers, Prime Ministers and Football coaches, with the pollies clearly winning the revolving door contest.
“Barrington Coast is far too tenuous a link to work in practice. I’d equate it to an organisation’s accountant’s version rather than the marketing manager’s.”
Current MidCoast Mayor David West chipped in with: “It was important for the community to understand that the new destination name was about appealing to new visitors to the area who will support the economy. “
I suggest a far more appealing destination name and tag line would be based on why visitors – many of whom ultimately become residents and ratepayers – come to our region.
“Stress is ever-increasing in the big smoke. We offer personalised escape through a relaxing holiday. What would work better? The BARRINGTON COAST or something like The Escape Coast. Relaxation. Recreation. Rejuvenation.
“By default, ‘Relaxation’ means different things to different people, ‘Recreation’ is all-encompassing and covers both active and passive activities, and ‘Rejuvenation’” is the pleasurable sum total of Relaxation and Recreation.
“This alternative name captures feelings of people who want holidays and is a differentiator. Its five key words offer digital search optimisation. Google “Escape” and it used by many varied holiday suppliers, but not as a regional destination name.
An opportunity lost or a costly makeover that wasn’t needed in the first place?
And there are the issues of democracy, community consultation and buy-in.
It’s not over yet, we hope.
(Another suggestion has been . . . . Come to the Mid North Coast . . …… Big River Country … Ed)