Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) has completed its major restructure by upgrading the role of its administrative head and appointing a chief executive officer.
James Shearer, who joined the organisation on August 1, brings to the role a solid tourism background beginning in hotel concierge in New Zealand before working up to executive roles at the Best Western hotel chain and, most recently, BIG4 Holiday Parks in Melbourne.
Mr Shearer said his appointment to the official regional tourism organisation was “a privilege’’ and he was excited to work with BMLOT to market “this absolutely extraordinary area of natural beauty’’.
BMLOT chairman Randall Walker welcomed Mr Shearer to the newly created role and said the organisation was “fortunate to have secured such a high calibre individual as James, and with a track record of delivering results’’.
Mr Shearer’s appointment was the culmination of a four year journey of reform, beginning with an independent strategic review commissioned by BMLOT and a board commitment to restructure the organisation, which included an international search for a CEO.
“A key part of our reform process was separating our staffing, the secretariat services, from Blue Mountains City Council,’’ Mr Walker said.
“While we appreciated that arrangement for many years, our organisation had evolved and there was a definite need to avoid confusion of roles and directly contract our own resources either solely or primarily focused on BMLOT priorities.’’
The separation of the official regional tourism organisation from the council took place with full support of the council.
In fact, the council’s human resources specialist Stuart Liddell guided the recruitment process, thanks to council general manager Robert Greenwood and Mayor Daniel Myles.
“Stuart’s advice and assistance was priceless,’’ Mr Walker said. “Even though it is an iconic destination and an exciting change-management role for a strong highly motivated industry leader to make their mark, to attract more than sixty formal applications was credit to Stuart Liddell.’’
Applications were received from Italy, England and New Zealand. Guided by Mr Liddell, a robust industry assessment panel including Lilianfels Group owner Huong Nguyen scored the applications to find a person with the capacity to “do whatever it takes’’ to deliver results for operators irrespective of economic and marketplace variables.
“It has been the paradigm of BMLOT over the past five years to maximise results year on year and we needed a person that could take the organisation to the next level,’’ Mr Walker said.
Four candidates were selected for final interview. An industry interview panel (BMLOT chairman Mr Walker, National Parks and Wildlife Service regional director and BMLOT director Geoff Luscombe, Bev Crockett of the Crockett Group and David Hammon of Scenic World) convened at the Sydney office of Destination NSW to interview the candidates.
Mr Shearer was “an outstanding performer throughout the entire recruitment process’’ and the unanimous choice of the panel.
“James brings to BMLOT a unique combination of CEO, marketing, membership, major brand, accommodation and regional tourism skills,’’ Mr Walker said. “He has tourism experience and a positive track record from New Zealand and Victoria, both of which are recognised as tourism success stories.’’
He welcomed Mr Shearer and partner Cherie to the region from Melbourne and wished them well settling into Leura, and wished Mr Shearer success in the CEO role.
Meanwhile, BMLOT has continued to implement an integrated tourism structure after advocating for an industry-led Local Tourism Organisation (LTO) for the Blue Mountains.
Blue Mountains Accommodation Association (BMAA) has evolved into the Blue Mountains Accommodation and Tourism Association (BMATA) to fulfil that role, which enables BMLOT to focus on its core Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) function of domestic and international destination marketing in conjunction with Destination NSW, Tourism Australia and other stakeholders.
“As a membership organisation there must be tangible benefits and outcomes delivered to members,’’ Mr Walker said.
Mr Shearer was now leading the BMLOT strategic planning process, setting direction for the next three years and implementing a best practice online and digital strategy.
“The future for the BMLOT region and industry is very bright,’’ Mr Walker said.
With a background in membership-based marketing organisations, Mr Shearer said he aimed to help grow tourism revenue to the region.
“Membership organisations are successful when the individual members are successful so over the coming months my priority will be getting out to meet with as many tourism operators as I can and talk about their business and priorities.’’
Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon Tourism covers the local government areas of Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon. Industry led and membership based, it has strategically marketed the destination since October 1998 as a not-for-profit organisation.