Archive for the ‘Tourism & leisure’ Category

Regional museums and galleries – from liabilities to assets

October 11, 2012

There are 1,000 museums and 500 commercial art galleries across Australia. And I’d hazard a guess that 50% would benefit hugely from professional support.

The good news is that as a result of interviews with the national museums and galleries in Canberra in recent months, I’m predicting a new federal program to rejuvenate these facilities. There are two main triggers – the government’s current overhaul of the arts programs, and Minister Crean’s desire to leverage the arts on behalf of regional Australia.

Background – There is a bit of a story, and I’d like to walk you through it.

Rural and urban communities alike often don’t appreciate their cultural points of difference. This point was brought home recently in talks with Museums Australia, the Canberra-based industry association. The MA’s head, Ms. Bernice Murphy, is adamant that regional museums and galleries are under-appreciated sources of community identity and pride, but we agree that the issue is how to unlock the potential.

As flagged previously, there is considerable scope to get more of the collections of the Big 7 national institutions out of Canberra and into the regions. The reason is that they have a large proportion of their collections in storage – for example, the National Museum, sitting proudly on Lake Burley Griffin, has 96% of its collection out of sight in the industrial suburbs of Canberra. Similarly the War Memorial, Sound and Film Archive, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Library etc. have a good proportion of their collection in storage.

However accessing these collections isn’t a simple process. These institutions are essentially the keepers of the national estate – so there are strict loan procedures. As Bernice explained ‘Art museums are geared up and ethically charged to take highest care of all works owned, and not to let works out of their care (even though a huge number of works may be in storage) except under strictest controls and regular checking.’

But when I broached the possibility of getting more of these collections out of Canberra, the response from most staff was positive. This seems to be because many of the staff seem to have come from interstate museums and galleries and thus understand their problems. They are also aware that Minister Crean has been dropping hints about more collaboration between the arts and regional development agencies within his portfolio.

The opportunity – There are three broad industry segments:

– The state museums and galleries, which are relatively well-resourced.
– The facilities in the bigger regional cities (Newcastle, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Freo etc.) which are growing in stature, but face continual financial worries.
– Hundreds of mostly marginal facilities in the smaller cities and towns.

The last category provides the opportunity. The norm is a collection of furniture, kitchenware, farming equipment and artworks cobbled together by local volunteers. These facilities are open only for short periods during the week and/or year, and get by with a council grant to cover electricity bills and so on. They don’t generate much tourism traffic or revenue, which is a great shame because when local museums and galleries ‘click’ they are powerful attractors of tourists, business investment and jobs. The great examples of Bungendore, Yarragon and Clunes are on our blog (

Based on discussions with the experts, there is an exciting opportunity looming for the small museums and galleries. It lies in accessing outside curatorial and marketing expertise, marrying items from the national institutions with the local collections to create stand-out displays, and creating hubs to attract and hold tourists.

These agendas won’t be easy, so you need to be persistent and think long-term about four necessary steps.

First, your community must decide whether it wants to be seriously in this game, and that it has sufficient people with the energy and commitment to make it happen.

Secondly, you need to ensure you have a building that can meet the standards required for the national collection. This doesn’t mean you need a new multi-million dollar facility e.g. there are precedents of old scout halls and commercial buildings being renovated to the required standard.

Thirdly you need to identify the cultural product that would underpin your museum or gallery. Is it an agricultural, maritime, industrial, mining, environmental, forestry, sports and leisure or social theme? If it’s not apparent, then cultural mapping is generally advised. This can be done by local historical groups or universities, but expert consultants also undertake this work.

Fourthly, thought needs to go into what businesses could be clustered in order to build complementary revenue streams and share business expenses e.g. marketing, electricity, staffing. Restaurants, bakeries, antique shops, coffee shops, wine bars and newsagencies spring to mind.

Getting started – The suggested start point is a dialogue with the professional groups. Museums Australia fits the bill. There are also numerous workshops and conferences run by them and its partner organisations where you can make the right connections. We can also help with the steps outlined above.

Contributed by LG Focus – October 2012 edition.

Chile is pretty hot

May 18, 2012

Ms. K Brown (Cockatoo member) is currently touring South America, and has filed this illuminating report on Chile’s economy and lifestyle.

“Tourism is becoming increasingly important, just behind copper, forestry and fisheries in terms of its contribution to Chile’s GDP as well as being the biggest employer. And the eco-tourism segment is very important in conserving Chile’s natural heritage.

I recently visited Huilo Huilo, a biological reserve in the middle of the Patagonian Andes in southern Chile. It is basically a cluster of hotels, cabins, lodges and camping grounds. Montana Magica has 40 rooms embedded in a man-made mountain, complete with a waterfall rising out the top, trickling down the windows. Hotel Baobab is more modern, consisting of 55 rooms in a futuristic looking, wooden pyramid. A new section, shaped like a mushroom, will have another 50 rooms. The hotels are interconnected by a myriad of walkways.

The lodges and cabins are set further from the main hotels to provide privacy. Golf carts are available to deliver those lodgers to the hotels’ main facilities. Add to this a couple of restaurants and bars, and more relaxation areas than anyone can find time to visit, and you have a 4 star hotel hidden away in the forest, surrounded by lakes, volcanoes and waterfalls.

Good things

Tourism is a great provider of employment – for example, Huilo Huilo has 80 hotel employees and 30 tour guides. This doubles in summer when the hotel is full every day. Graduates from non-tourism fields are flocking to this industry.

Environmental conservation – Huilo Hulio was declared a UNESCO Biological Reserve in 2007, enabling local hotels to leverage this into their designs, and marketing themselves to nature lovers. In return, the hotels are funding various conservation projects in the local community.

Friendly staff – Chile is known for its friendly locals. Even with a language barrier, they will always try to help or at least offer a greeting and a smile. As in other countries in South America, it’s wise to take directional advice with a grain of salt – because locals are so friendly, they will give very convincing directions without a clue of how to get there.

Pisco and wine – Chile is renowned for its pisco (grape brandy) and vineyards. Chileans are quick to offer tours and tastings, and work closely with hotels to provide transfers and information to lure you in.

Internet – Chile has the highest level of Internet penetration and computer ownership in Latin America.

Atmosphere – As with most SA countries, it’s common to see locals dancing on the spot in stores, restaurants and in the street. The local music can be either great or terrible, and you’ll hear a surprising amount of English-speaking songs. The locals will happily sing away to every lyric, without any understanding of what it means. The bigger cities feature big name acts – Roxette, Bob Dylan and Duran Duran all played during my 5 days in Santiago.

English – is now part of the curriculum at most Chilean schools. Chilean kids sing out “Hello, good afternoon, bye” to typical looking Gringos, such as me. It’s probably the current extent of their vocabulary, but it’s humbling.

Not so good things

Sewage systems – Chile, like many SA countries, doesn’t have the sewage systems to handle many of the objects that folk in developed countries put down the toilet. It’s quite daunting when asked to place used toilet paper in the bin. It reminds you that you’re in a developing country.

Gringo pricing and tip assumptions – Chileans are very quick to make judgement about your financial status and they adapt their pricing structures to suit. One tour operator quoted me an obviously inflated tour price and without missing a beat, quickly chimed “You’re a rich Australian though, so you can afford it”. I was not impressed! This disparity in pricing is apparent everywhere. The airlines will offer a price for local Chileans and almost double the price for non-residents.

Corruption – while less of a problem than in other SA countries, it’s still an issue. The owners of a Ma and Pa pizza shop in one regional city (they lived in Canberra for 12 years) explained that certain forms of corruption are still very apparent. For this reason they’re returning to Australia within the year. As the husband explained, “if you apply to the local Town Hall for a licence permit, unless you have a lot of money or know someone at the top, you will be waiting a very long time.”

Natural Disasters – Chile has 36 of the world’s active volcanoes. While this may boost its tourism attractiveness, it also means you must be on high alert. Towns such as Pucon have volcano eruption lights around town – red, yellow and green. Add to this the fact that Chile is the boundary between two tectonic plates and you have good reason to sleep with one eye open. The last significant earthquake (2010) measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale. It killed 525 people in the city of Conception – hardly in keeping with the city’s name!”

South Australia’s clusters…what worked and why

October 18, 2011

SA once ran Australia’s best cluster program. The main architects were Mick O’Neill (now an executive with Adelaide City Council) and ex-Irishman Hugh Forde. This is the last article in the series by Mick – previous clusters featured were water, defence, spatial information and multimedia – refer our blog.

 Arts, Tourism and Sports all had a government department that initiated/sponsored the respective cluster initiatives, albeit engaging industry leaders to drive the project. The process again focused on strategic initiatives, engaging local industry and building collaboration. The department took up the role of supporting the initiatives and the cluster, so again it was inappropriate to establish a new entity. Projects had a life and the degree to which they contributed in the long term was debatable.

 But one anecdote is telling. Prior to the tourism cluster initiative the state and federal bodies were at loggerheads. The engagement of the federal body in the state process led to SA being more explicitly recognised in national promotion campaigns and it enhanced ongoing collaboration.

How do you put a value on something like this? Similarly, while it may seem amazing, both Arts and Tourism sectors acknowledged that there had been only limited cooperation between the sectors. Explicit initiatives were thus developed to address this. While not all as tangible, there were numerous examples of benefits that emerged from the respective processes. While there is no evidence of the ‘cluster’ today, the Arts and Tourism sectors definitely exist and many would say the cluster initiatives were valuable.

 Healthy Ageing and Environmental Industries are interesting. They were both ten years ahead of their time (another lesson) and received limited government support although participants were tremendously enthusiastic. Again a variety of strategic projects were established and in each case an entity was established on a shoestring budget. Inevitably the burnout law applied.

 The Environmental Industries initiative was funded by the Federal government under an emerging industries program. Ironically both sectors are flavour of the month today – with environmental industries now largely rebadged as Cleantech, while healthy ageing is a massive budget issue and substantial market opportunity.

 It’s probably OK to talk about failed clusters here too, although I am currently working with a network that emerged from the environmental industries process and has survived for the past 10 years. It’s in the energy efficiency/smart grid space – an area whose time has definitely come.

 In summary – adequate funding, usually state government, is critical as is the rationale and process involved in selecting the clusters (responding to government agendas is fraught). Nevertheless we need to be careful about using the term failed clusters. We need to distinguish the clusters as they exist in the real world from the groups that we’ve facilitated as well as the entities that have emerged out of these facilitated interventions. The fact that an entity might not survive or the groups no longer meet does not mean that the sector/cluster is not healthy or growing or that the initiative ‘failed’. Any number of cluster activities may have contributed to the growth of the cluster but have their own finite life for various reasons.

 Regards, Mick O’Neill 0416 079 089


Cooktown – a different type of zoo

July 7, 2011

 With the strong dollar, inbound tourism intoCairnsis pretty grim. You have to feel sorry for the shopkeepers and restaurant owners.

 Anyway, I’d never been to Cooktown, and have a long-lost cousin there, so last month I did the 4 hour drive fromCairns. TheMulligan Highwaywas unsealed up until five years ago. Now it’s a beautiful drive with the majesticGreat Dividing Rangeon your right, and wildlife everywhere. Brahman cattle as big as houses, and I nearly cleaned up a herd of brumbies and a pair of plain turkeys (aka bustards).

 Cooktown’s population is only 2,000 and has retained its frontier character. There are some great Queenslander-type pubs with timber floors. On the first morning I wandered down the main street past the spot where Captain Cook repaired the Endeavour. At the main jetty, the ferry fromCairnswas just docking with a sprinkle of tourists. I got to talking to a veteran fisherman casting a line.

 ‘Get many crocs here?’ I asked innocently.

 ‘Put it this way, mate, don’t wash your bloody hands down there’ came the reply in typical FNQ understatement. ‘See that rock wall behind us? A couple of months back a croc went flying up there after a white-tailed rat!’ I later googled the said rat – it is a rodent native to northQueenslandand can weigh up to 2 kilograms!

 My new best friend then gave me a 10 minute overview of fish he’d caught with his two sons in their 20 foot runabout, and some jibes about the ‘grey shoe shufflers’ wandering off the ferry. Then he launched into a stinging critique of the crocodile conservation policy. I’d gotten the drift the previous night from a photo of a croc launching itself at a youth in a tinny. A priceless photo – see for yourself in the local pizza restaurant.

 The point of this article is that Cooktown is just the beginning ofCape York, a vastly different region waiting for jaded domestic and international tourists. The southern nodes of Mareeba and Cooktown give way to Coen,LockhartRiver, Weipa and the communities of Seisa, Barmaga andThursday Island. Travel north of Cooktown has its challenges – unsealed roads, expensive airfares (unless you book ahead), insufficient accommodation and variable food. Cape York Sustainable Futures (Cockatoo member) is addressing these issues.

 If you want conventional tourism, it’s best to stick to Port Douglas,Cairns, Noosa and the like. But if you want sweeping scenery, abundant wildlife, friendly people in a remote setting, then put this place on your Bucket List.


Aussie TQUAL program (tourism) – hot tips

March 9, 2011


The new TQUAL program – ‘tourism quality’ – is open for submissions, closing 15 April. The application form is 30 pages and a pain in the butt – on a par with Healthy Communities (see below). The aim s to basically develop innovative and strategic tourism products and experiences through joint investment to enhance and support the sustainable economic growth of the host communities and regions.

 Total funding is $40 million over four years – annual rounds. The standard grants are up to $100k and must be matched by non-federal funding. There are also ‘strategic infrastructure’ grants of up to $1 million – guidelines not yet out for these.  

 Cockatoo is currently preparing submissions for clients. Some hot tips

  • Ensure it aligns with the principles of the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy.
  • The focus is on upgrading the supply side – note Minister Ferguson reckons much of our regional tourism infrastructure is below world standard (Hard to disagree).
  • Ensure it is innovative and delivers economic/community benefits.

The problem for lots of folk is organising the matching funding by the 15 April deadline. I am not sure the feds know how broke local government is, and the time it takes to organise funding from the states and private sector.

 Our recommendation is that you call in the experts to assist in scoping your ideas and preparing the submissions. This is what we do!

Travels broadens your creativity

November 10, 2010

People who live abroad are more creative; and the more time they spend away from home, the more creative they become – says William Maddux, assistant professor at INSEAD, France.

However certain conditions apply, says Maddux. For example, creativity is unlikely to spark for people travelling abroad for a short holiday. “We don’t find a positive correlation with travel abroad and creativity.”

Maddux says it has to be at least a short stint abroad, but adds that the quality of the experience matters.

“Not only does time matter – which can explain why living abroad matters and not travelling abroad – it’s also the psychological transformation that you go through while you’re abroad e.g. your creative levels can spike if you fully immerse yourself in local experiences…there’s a very strong, robust association between foreign language aptitude and creativity…So a person who goes to live abroad for a year, but hangs out mostly with expatriates isn’t going to derive the same creative benefit as those who try to adapt themselves to a new culture, learn the language, learn the customs…”

Maddux’s advice is to look for people who have these enriching experiences abroad. Conversely, don’t skimp on offering international assignments.

Contributed by INSEAD.

Brumby’s pitch re regional events

November 10, 2010

VICTORIAN premier John Brumby has committed $12 million to a regional major events fund for country Victoria – to support events like the motorcycle grand prix on Phillip Island and the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.

Voters in Victoria go to the polls on November 27. If re-elected, the funding would also be used to back more major events in the regions such as Ballarat’s bid to host the 2014 world rowing masters regatta on Lake Wendouree.

“The new $12 million fund will be a dedicated fund for regional Victoria to support new major events that will put our regions on the world map and lure interstate and international visitors,” he said.

Cape York’s investment prospectus

October 18, 2010

There are some interesting developments up north.

Cape York Sustainable Futures have recently completed an investment prospectus on behalf of the region. It is very well written and we recommend that you peruse it – it is on the CYSF website.

It’s immediately north of Cairns, twice the size of Tasmania and has a population of 15,000, 70% of whom are indigenous. It has significant national interest in terms of mineral resources, quarantine buffers, pristine environment, indigenous culture and a sustainable development opportunities identified in the prospectus eg. aquaculture, ecotourism, agriforestry, horticulture.

The big constraint however is transport – all roads north of Cooktown are unsealed (unusable in the wet season) and air fares are high. The old chicken and egg scenario – what comes first, low airfares or greater numbers of passengers.

On a per km basis, fares around Cape York are about five times higher compared with readily available discount fares on high traffic routes. Below are fares quoted on 14.10.10 for travel one week ahead.

Total Cost (one-way) Cost/km

Qantas Cairns to Horn Island $663 (std. fare) $0.83
Transair Cairns to Arukun $486 (std. fare) $0.80
Qantas Cairns to Brisbane $215 (discount) $0.15

The reason – lack of an integrated network, lack of traffic (due to high airfares) and weak tourism marketing. We’ve spoken to the feds about the problem, which is common across regional Australia.

Keep you posted.

Bibbulmun Track – BEST PRACTICE

July 14, 2010

 There have been a spate of walking tracks developed in the last 5-10 years, and the federal infrastructure programs in Australia have helped. But the quality has been patchy because project proponents haven’t had a clear idea of what they should aspire to. Our research highlights the following deficiencies:

– gaps lie in poor signage.
– lack of decent maps for out-of-area tourists – unless you’re a local, walkers don’t have a clue where the tracks start or finish, or the worthy features along the track.
– lack of toilets and picnic areas.
– insufficient accommodation (both basic and upmarket).
– Poor marketing to national and international markets.

 The best way for local communities to understand how their walking trail measures up is to get a group together and walk other trails. A good example is the Bondi to Coogee Walking Trail in Sydney – takes your breath away.  The Yarra Trail is another good one.

 But the daddy of them all is the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia – it runs for almost 1,000 km along the Darling Ranges and beyond. It is a marvellous model for other tracks, not because of its length, but because of the brains and persistence that have gone into it. The track dates back to 1972, but take-off occurred in the 1990s when a remarkable ‘rainbow coalition’ was formed. An American guy named Jesse was the project manager, and RDC folk like Bruce Manning (see below) was also very active.

The project grabbed Canberra’s attention because of the above coalition, the innovative leveraging of funding from the mining companies for toilets, signage, tables, bridges etc., and the involvement of prison labour in the upgrade. A federal Regional Development Program grant of $1.38 million ensued, which was matched by the then WA Department of Conservation and Land Management, WA Ministry of Justice, Regional Development Commissions and Employment Training programs.

Alison Dalziel of Morrison Low Consultants Pty Ltd recently chased down the latest details. The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) is now the manager of the Track, assisted by a not-for-profit Foundation. The really interesting thing is the high level and varied membership of the Board. Take note!

Chair: Mike Wood: MD of Mountain Designs, WA
Deputy Chair: Simon Holthouse: former Chair of State Planning Commission
Ron Alexander: DG, WA Department of Sport & Recreation
Steve Crawford: Director Policy and Planning, Tourism WA
Megan Graham: Recreation and Trails Unit, Dept. of Environment & Conservation
Leonie Kirke: Former Assistant Principal, All Saints College
Bruce Manning: CEO, Great Southern Development Commission
Jim Sharp: Director of Parks, DEC
Patrick Tremlett: Assistant Parliamentary Counsel
Linda Daniels: Executive Director.

Go to

Wagga’s competitive advantage = SPORT

January 12, 2010

Researchers are to uncover ‘why’ Wagga Wagga has produced so many sporting champions. Griffith University is leading research into identifying potential elite athletes. Rather than standard biophysical measures, the aim is to explain why areas such as Wagga produce more elite athletes than others – also involved are the Australian Sports Commission, Australian Institute of Sport, Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia and the Australian Football League following a $300k grant from the Australian Research Council.

The ”Wagga syndrome” has produced rugby league greats Peter Sterling, Chris & Steve Mortimer & Arthur Summons, AFL stars Wayne Carey & Paul Kelly, 400 metres runner Patrick Dwyer, golfer Steve Elkington, cricketers Mark Taylor, Michael Slater & Geoff Lawson, tennis champion Tony Roche. The team will study the family-club-social support networks for elite athletes, how recruiters perceive talent and home-town advantage. (Discussed this at a conference a few years back – Wagga factors suggested were the lack of non-sports options for youths and very good sports amenities – Editor).