Inclusive, Inventive, Adaptive – That’s The How We Do Things In Taree
How Taree took the brief for the annual Local Government Association NSW Tourism Conference to create a truly inclusive event.
As tourism conferences go, the annual event held by Local Government NSW (LGNSW) is effective in showcasing the often unexpected charms of host destinations.
This business event spotlights the role of local government and business in developing tourism across NSW, and, from the perspective of event organiser LGNSW, Taree offered the potential for a compelling tourism agenda in its attractions, event facilities and location in the breathtakingly beautiful Manning Valley.
Visitor experiences in the region range from river cruises on the majestic Manning River to heritage walks in historic towns and villages. Nearby are wineries and vineyards, scenic driving routes through landscapes of outstanding natural beauty, some of the state’s best surfing beaches and untouched wetlands teeming with bird and marine life.
Added to this are opportunities for retail therapy at artisan markets, galleries and antique outlets as well as dining experiences that celebrate fresh produce and the bounty of the local oyster industry.
For those attending the 2017 LGNSW Tourism Conference it was clear that this was a host destination that could offer exceptional regional tourism experiences.
The conference itself also proved to be a catalyst in assisting Taree to enhance its business event capability with organisers LGNSW and co-host MidCoast Council, encouraging the town to interpret and explore the conference brief of ‘inclusion.’
How to Build on a Brief: Taree and LGNSW show the way
A conference theme gives the host destination opportunities to explore the concept in multiple ways and think laterally. Taree and LGNSW began collaborating on the conference theme early on, to ultimately create the theme ‘Tourism is everyone’s business’.
The ideas generated by Taree and LGNSW, which included members of the local Aboriginal community collaborating on the conference program, had an ongoing impact on program development and social media messaging. The major themes were inclusive tourism, nature and environment, art, heritage and culture.
During the first site visit co-hosts LGNSW and the Mid Coast Council met with Uncle Russell, Elder of the Biripi people. Uncle Russell is an artist who runs a local gallery, manages Aboriginal dance groups and an education program in schools. He had much to contribute. The meeting opened the way for joint planning by the co-hosts and the Aboriginal community, which resulted in strong Aboriginal cultural elements being integrated into the conference program.
The motif for the conference was designed by Uncle Russell and adapted for use on all conference collateral; a dance performance added great impact to the traditional Welcome To Country; the conference program incorporated sessions on creating Indigenous tourism product; and Aboriginal guides led an experiential site visit to the coastal wetlands and waterways of Saltwater National Park.
LGNSW didn’t stop there in applying its principles of inclusion. It looked for ways to improve access and inclusion for people of all abilities; ensured that the conference involved local groups, performers and suppliers of products and services; and provided opportunities for local hospitality and event students to obtain practical event experience.
Sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference in terms of inclusion. LGNSW took its lead from the NSW Government’s Disability Inclusion Action Planning Guidelines published by LGNSW: all conference web and print documents were set in 12pt type or larger for those with vision impairment; hearing loops were introduced at the main venue; a wheelchair lift was hired to give access to the main stage for one of the speakers; and the door to the stage was widened, creating a practical and much-needed legacy of improved access for the venue.
Tourism is everyone's business
A key part of the approach to inclusion was to involve the local business community – not just as suppliers of services and product but as conference special guests. It achieved this by inviting the winners of local business awards to each host a table at the Gala Dinner. It was a particularly personal touch that not only acknowledged the achievements and standing of these business owners in the local community; it also presented excellent networking opportunities that could assist their future expansion into other regional markets.
LGNSW is an influential organization, offering the region the opportunity to connect with local government, business, tourism and political leaders. This was not only important in terms of showcasing tourism developments but also the chance to discuss local challenges and opportunities directly with experts and decision-makers.
Toting up the Benefits…..
Taree and the MidCoast Region – broad economic stimulus
- The LGNSW Tourism Conference attracted more than 227 delegates to Taree to participate in the 2.5-day program, generating economic and business stimulus to the region
- Aboriginal skills, cultural performance, and local enterprises were fully integrated into the program, from inception; they were active contributors in shaping and planning the logistics of the event
Conference organisers, Council and local venues applied guidelines that ensured access and inclusion for people of all abilities
Local business owners had opportunities to showcase their products and services and, as hosts, network with a broad range of regional representatives from across NSW
Local tourism developments and opportunities were a focus of the conference and the Mid North Coast industry had direct opportunities to connect with key influencers that included senior government ministers and public servants, specialists and industry leaders. They were also able to receive practical input from their peers in other regions.
LGNSW – a seamless event, a mission fulfilled
- LGNSW made an extremely important contribution to the economic development of the region, particularly in the area of contemporary conference planning and regional tourism development
- The conference was a catalyst for creating more inclusive approaches to business events
- The event itself generated a high level of delegate satisfaction due to the seamless efficiency of the program as well as the creative and welcoming approach of the local community.
Delegates and Industry – connections, insights, value for money
- Industry delegates were able to connect with the latest ideas and developments to improve regional tourism infrastructure and experiences
- The Conference delivered exceptional value for money without compromising on the quality of accommodation, venues, transfers, touring and conference services. For those unfamiliar with the region, it was a valuable insight into the business event capability of the region and a surprising and rewarding visitor experience.