You don’t need to go far to hear bad news about the tourism industry these days.
The high Australian dollar means more Aussie travellers can afford to take their annual jaunt overseas, while at the same time making a trip downunder prohibitive to many North American and European visitors.
On top of that, the floods in QLD and the Northern Rivers last summer have dampened the enthusiasm of many would-be visitors to the region.
So the news that three key Northern Rivers events have secured grant funds totaling $40,000, while not a fortune in anyone’s language, is welcome nonetheless.
The grants were announced by the NSW minister for tourism George Souris on Friday.
The successful events were the Australian Longboard Surfing Open (formerly Malfunction) at Kingscliff, Casino Beef Week and the Byron Bay International Film Festival. They were amongst 32 events in regional NSW to receive funding under Destination NSW’s Regional Flagship Events Program.
The Byron Bay International Film Festival (BBFF) received triennial funding of $20,000 over three years. Casino Beef Week and the Australian Longboard Surfing Open each received $10,000 in funding for the 2012 events.
Northern Rivers Tourism (NRT) CEO Russell Mills welcomed the grants as ‘a vital boost for the long-term future of events in our region.’
Now it its sixth year, BBFF has a very strong community focus, which the funding recognises.
Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke says, ‘triennial funding will create for the Byron Bay International Film Festival to be promoted year round across Australia and the world. There’s a lot of interest growing for BBFF and the timing of this support couldn’t be better.’
The event has previously received Flagship Funding, but only at about half the current rate.
J’aimee told Echonetdaily, ‘we want to reinforce local values, whether political, musical or artistic – right down to surf and beach culture. We do like to showcase the work of local filmmakers and provide a lot of free workshops and filmmaking events to supporting the local industry.
The Echo is a sponsor of the event and ‘that helps us because the funding we’ve received for marketing outside the Northern Rivers Region,’ she says.
‘I’m absolutely stoked!’ said Sean McKeown, event manager at Kingscliff’s Australian Longboard Surfing Open. ‘It gives us the opportunity to rebrand the event and target more interstate and international visitors.’
Casino Beef Week president Stuart George said that ‘this will help make the 30th birthday celebrations of Beef Week event better.’
‘The importance of festivals and events was the theme of a panel discussion at our recent tourism symposium,’ continued Mr Mills.
‘They provide an extra reason for people to visit as they tap into people’s special interests and passions, while at the same time reflecting the essence of the places in which they take place.
‘In our view this reinforces the need to develop a regional events strategy across the seven local government areas of the Northern Rivers.’