Funding boost for Blue Mountains tourism agency

Tourism Recovery Funding boost announcement at Echoes Restaurant, Katoomba.(l-r) Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker, Blue Mountains Accomodation and Tourism Association president Eric Sward, Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage, Escarpment Group owner and BMLOT director Huong Nguyen, NPWS Regional Manager and BMLOT director Geoff Luscombe and Silks Brasserie owner Stewart Robinson. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Tourism Recovery Funding boost announcement at Echoes Restaurant, Katoomba.(l-r) Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker, Blue Mountains Accomodation and Tourism Association president Eric Sward, Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage, Escarpment Group owner and BMLOT director Huong Nguyen, NPWS Regional Manager and BMLOT director Geoff Luscombe and Silks Brasserie owner Stewart Robinson. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) welcomes a State Government commitment of extra funding to help it promote the region as safe to visit and open for business.

Premier Barry O’Farrell today announced a $227,500 State Government funding boost to the official regional tourism organisation for a marketing and promotion campaign to encourage domestic and international tourists to visit the region.

BMLOT chairman Randall Walker said the past few weeks had been very challenging for the regional tourism industry, which had suffered losses of up to $2 million a day in the wake of the recent bushfires.

“On behalf of the tourism industry across our region I thank Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage, the Premier, Tourism Minister George Souris and the State Government for this much needed boost in recovery campaign funding.

“BMLOT put the business case to Roza, with losses in excess of $20 million and jobs at risk, and she has made representations on behalf of industry.

“This additional funding is urgently required to stem the decline.

“We will now be able to focus on recovering to previous visitor and visitor expenditure levels of 4 million visitors and $550 million a year.

“Our tourism industry generates more than 5100 equivalent full-time jobs. I know a number of tourism people – business owners and employees – were among those who lost their homes, including a BMLOT director. To also lose their job would compound the devastation to a family.’’

There was no need for people to cancel or defer their visit to the region, Mr Walker said.

“People have been asking how they can help the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon community.

“There is no better way to help than to support those tourism jobs.

“We need people to spoil themselves with a short break or daytrip – stay in one of our quality hotels, motels, guesthouses and B&Bs; dine in one of our world-class restaurants or cafes such as Silk’s Brasserie at Leura or Echoes Restaurants at Katoomba; visit one of our outstanding attractions such as Scenic World or Jenolan Caves near Oberon; book an adventure with one of our outdoor guides; and we’ll throw in some of the most spectacular vistas on the planet for free, such as the famous Echo Point Lookout at Katoomba or Hassans Walls at Lithgow.’’

Mr Walker reminded visitors that the recent bushfires occurred on the northern side of the escarpment and that the most popular visitor experiences on the southern side remained completely unaffected.

Importantly, the Great Western Hwy and railway line has remained fully open to the upper mountains throughout the reporting of fire activity and sometimes the closure of Bells Line of Rd was confused with access to the Blue Mountains.

Premier Barry O’Farrell also encouraged people to support the region by visiting the Blue Mountains, Lithgow or Oberon.

“I’m concerned motels and B&Bs are reporting cancellations and businesses are suffering, so I want to send the message to everyone that the Blue Mountains are open for business.

“This is one of the most scenic parts of the world, with outstanding restaurants, attractions and accommodation.

“Tourism literally supports hundreds of jobs in the Blue Mountains. Many people have already lost their homes. It would only add to their heartache if they lost their jobs too.’’

BMLOT would use some of the funding to promote the district to international markets, critical to ensure tourism was rebuilt quickly in the region, Mr O’Farrell said.

Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage had done “a wonderful job’’ supporting her electorate and had strongly argued for the additional funding to support local tourism operators, he said.

“Activities will include media and trade famils to generate international publicity, hosted visits by inbound tour operators within Australia, online marketing and exhibiting at the Australian Tourism Exchange where the tourism industry meets each year to secure more visitors to NSW.’’

Tourism Minister George Souris said the Blue Mountains area was one of the most popular for visitors to NSW.

“It is critical we continue to support the local industry. In addition to the new funding, our tourism agency Destination NSW is also providing marketing and publicity support both overseas and domestically to ensure everyone knows the region is open for business to secure short break bookings for the Blue Mountains.’’

Mrs Sage said the funding would significantly help in the recovery effort to ensure tourism remained strong.

“It’s a critical part of the economy for the Blue Mountains, with so many businesses and people reliant upon the visitors it brings to our beautiful region.’’

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