By Karen Buck
TOURISM operators in Denmark say that they’re fed up and frustrated with the lack of benefits delivered by Amazing South Coast Tourism Inc (ASC).
Many local providers report that they are doing well despite a reported drop in visitor figures, but put it down to their own persistent hard work and personal marketing campaigns rather than anything done by the ASC.
Most say that they have no idea what they are getting from the marketing body for their membership subscriptions.
Some concede that it may be early days for the relatively new body, but they are disappointed with what it has delivered so far and hope the ASC will live up to its original promises.
Others report that they are fed up, and that after two years the ASC seems to have no strategic or marketing plan, a chaotic and ‘appalling’ website, no personal contact with providers and their products, and very low tourist referrals from local ASC-run visitor centres.
Incorporated in 2017 the ASC was touted as ‘the next big thing’ – an amazing regional marketing tool which would deliver greater benefits to local tourism operators than the smaller, locally run, membership-based visitor centres in Mount Barker and Denmark, and the council-run body in Albany.
Economic funding imperatives and the greater strength of combined numbers for marketing in a regional context were the reasons cited at the time for disbanding the local groups and replacing them with the one overarching body.
ASC executive officer Peter Grigg, who took over the reins in February, acknowledged that he was well aware of extreme dissatisfaction with the organisation and mounting local frustration.
“I think the dissatisfaction is because we have not communicated appropriately with our members by telling them what’s going on, keeping them in the loop, and making them feel part of the organisation,” Mr Grigg said. “I’m trying to solve that. “Have I visited every member? No. Do I need to? Of course I do. “People say to me that they’re frustrated by the amount of time this has taken, that it’s dragging on and on, and when are we going to start doing things? I take that on board.”
Mr Grigg said the ASC had a very good marketing plan in effect last year but when asked for specifics said his focus was now on the future.
“You have me at a disadvantage – I’m looking at going forward, so I can tell you exactly where we need to be. The past is the past,” he said.
“I need to move forward and try to get our operators on side. We have got to get runs on the board and get the confidence of our members.
“I’ve got hard work to do – the board knows that, and our operators know that.”
Mr Grigg said that the strategic plan for 2019-20 was waiting to be signed off by Tourism Western Australia.
Once that happened he would seek to discuss it widely with members and the media.
“I believe that our strategic plan offers a number of exciting marketing opportunities, and that my job is to get people to see the benefits of membership so that we can grow our numbers and our businesses,” he said. “I’ve been an operator myself for many years, and I know what it’s like when people aren’t in the street, aren’t on your shop floor, or your phone isn’t ringing. “My job is to create and make the most of regional marketing opportunities so that everybody gets to benefit.”
Mr Grigg conceded that concerns expressed by members about Denmark and other smaller areas losing their identities in the larger regional marketing push were accurate.
“We need to take that concern on board and work with the operators to close the gap, so that when we go to a marketing activity and it is specific to a region we make sure that people are aware that it is Denmark or Porongurup or Mount Barker,” he said.
Denmark Chamber of Commerce executive officer Liz Jack said that she understood why local tourism providers were frustrated with the ASC. “We are all eagerly awaiting details of the strategic plan,” Ms Jack said. “No matter what the frustrations, the Amazing South Coast is all we have, and we all need to get behind it and make sure it works.”
Ms Jack said that the chamber continued to advocate that past investment in the local and highly-successful Discover Denmark brand campaign should not be wasted. ”We firmly believe that Denmark still needs some sort of local champion,” she said. “It needs someone or something that is driving, advocating, promoting, supporting and articulating into the Amazing South Coast the specific needs of our local business community, and focusing on the specific attractions of Denmark in a regional setting.”