The question we will pose here is: Is it the responsibility of the Australian government to fund tourism marketing on Norfolk Island, or should funding take the form of a partnership between government and private enterprise? It seems, with very little research, that this question has been asked and answered in many previous reports by Norfolk Island Tourism and various externally appointed consultants .
What do they do in other places?
Lord Howe Island has a board that administers the island and takes on the functions óf a regional council. Up to 75% of the boards overall funding comes from Australian grants and the rest is raised from the community. The board gives the island tourism body $100 000 per year for tourism marketing and another $150 000 comes from Destination New South Wales and other sources. The board states in their annual report that the bulk of tourism funding (up to 900 000 dollars) is for on island projects and infrastructure to support the tourism sector and offer up to date , modern and reliable services to and from the island. Lord Howe has a separate governance structure to Norfolk Island but there are many similarities and it can give us an idea of broad structural funding arrangements in Australia.
Australia’s Coral Coast has a budget (this is public information) of well over $1m for marketing. This is made up of state government sponsorship funds of $620,000, membership fees and advertising support along with other sponsors. Tourism WA’s budget is close to $50m and Tourism Australia’s is $130m
We have found that it is common for half to three quarters of funding for tourist marketing purposes comes from government and the rest from industry, usually in the form of memberships.
The problems we have experienced on Norfolk Island in the past stem from disunity, distrust (of government and competitors) and a mindset of top down governmental funding. A 2008 Report from GLOBAL TOURISM AND LEISURE PTY. LTD. states:
"In spite of this, however, there appears to be significant dislocation within the tourism industry and disengagement by many participants in the general direction and affairs of the industry. This situation is represented by many reports of disunity and lack of cooperation within the industry received during the consultation process and observed during various visits. Furthermore, the tourism industry has developed a strong dependence upon government to accept and undertake almost total responsibility for its direction and future". 2008 NIT Report
The reports since then have all identified the need of a partnership between public and private enterprise in one form or another:
"The Norfolk Island Government and industry must work together to implement recommended regulatory reforms, reduce investment barriers and promote investment to all potential stakeholders"::NIT Report 2014
"Government and business should work together to provide the best opportunities for personal and business development, encouraging employment and investment opportunities to achieve growth in population and visitor numbers". NIT Report 2014
SGS Consultancies were engaged in 2015 to report on Norfolk Island's economic development. They said:
"Businesses from small scale start-ups to medium and larger corporations will all be encouraged to contribute to the economic development of the Island" Economic Development report July 2015 SGS
They identified the need for change away from traditional markets and funding arrangements:
"If Norfolk Island is to further develop the benefits it seeks from tourism in an increasingly competitive, changing and demanding marketplace, it has no alternative but to change. The alternative will be a slow, lingering and painful decline of its tourism industry and of Norfolk Island’s future." 2008 NIT strategy
and just in case we were missing the point and needed hitting over the head:
"It is clear that no single operation or service can offer or provide the total needs or the Norfolk Island experience to its visitors and that each industry participant or community member is either a shareholder or stakeholder in delivering the best possible ‘Norfolk Island Experience’. RECOMMENDATION It is therefore recommended that Norfolk Island Tourism and the tourism industry develop ways of encouraging greater industry and community involvement and cooperation in the development of tourism on the Island." 2008 NIT Strategy
"RECOMMENDATION It is recommended that additional funds be sourced to increase the marketing and information services of Norfolk Island Tourism and that the NIT Board enter into discussions with the NI Government, Tourism Industry and Chamber of Commerce to seek additional funding sources and cooperative marketing solutions. 2008 Report GLOBAL TOURISM AND LEISURE PTY. LTD.
The report went further recommending a model for joint ownership and representation:
"NIT membership be sought from tourism industry operators and other stakeholders and beneficiaries. Half the members of the Board (3 members) of NIT be appointed by the Government and half (3 members) elected by the members (possibly from a range of industry categories), with the Government appointing an independent Chairman. That the members of the board elected or appointed initially for a one, two or three year term, and from then on for a three year term, a third of the Board would retire at the end year. The independent Chairman would serve a three year term. Government funding would be provided in two separate allocations; the first to cover the statutory administrative and operational requirements currently included in the act, and the second to cover budgeted marketing, promotion and distribution costs. Additional funding would be derived from the industry through membership fees and in addition cooperative advertising and promotional vehicles and opportunities would also add to marketing resources". 2008 GLOBAL TOURISM AND LEISURE PTY. LTD.
Increased unification of the tourism industry and involvement by the community in tourism leads to greater professionalism, transparency, consistency and general elevation of service standards, cooperative development of the industry and the experiences it provides. If we are to move forward as a community we all need to be involved, from the mechanic to the sandwich maker to public servants and tourism operators.
Who will lead us into the future?