The Ballina lighthouse.
The Ballina lighthouse.

TOURISM GOLDMINE: Bold plan to bring $450M into Ballina area

A NEW strategy to bring in $450 million from visitors every year is being developed for the Ballina Shire.

The council has prepared the Ballina Coast and Hinterland Destination Management Plan 2021-2030, which is now on public exhibition.

It is the next phase of destination development and builds on the strengths of the 2014-2020 plan.

The overall objective of that plan was to double overnight visitor expenditure to $300 million by 2020.

For the 2018 calendar year, visitors to the region spent a total of $311 million.

The council's visitor services team leader, Alicia Wallace, acknowledged the new target of $450 million was ambitious.

"But I am confident we can get there," she said.

"We did consider scaling back a bit, given what is happening with COVID-19, but we really feel the demand is there, people want to come to the Ballina area, particularly if restrictions ease."

The key to the tourism plan's success will be aligning any new strategies with what the local community wants and values.

Ms Wallace said the visitor economy was an important economic driver which generated hundreds of jobs.

The plan explains: "As our population increases, the qualities that make our destination special, such as our productive farmland and our natural environment, will need to be preserved.

"The Ballina Coast and Hinterland has long been viewed as a naturally beautiful, quiet, relaxing family-oriented holiday area and attractive retirement location.

"However locals no longer view Ballina as strictly a retirement area and the Visitor Economy Product Audit confirmed the destination offers food, nature-based tourism attractions, arts, cultural and beach lifestyle experiences."

The audit also identified gaps in experiences, including:

A signature festival/event

Indigenous led experiences

Nature-based experiences

Group transport services

Agri-tourism experiences

A corporate venue to cater for more than 500 seated people

Hinterland based self-contained accommodation

Wet weather attractions

Marina

Night-time dining scene.

While the council could potentially fill some of these gaps, private sector investment would also be required, Ms Wallace said.

She said the council would be happy to help key stakeholders and business owners align with the destination management plan.

Funding may also be available.

"We have short, medium and long term goals. This plan is our road map," Ms Wallace said.

Adult couples, people visiting friends and family, business groups and sporting events will be targeting in the marketing campaigns in an effort to drive mid-week visitors.

Ballina Coast and Hinterland Destination Management Plan is on public exhibition until August 31.

For more information visit the website or phone Ms Wallace on 1300 864 444.