As local residents who have brought up families in the Blue Mountains are painfully aware, there are too few local jobs for our children when they leave school.
Sixty per cent of working residents of the Blue Mountains leave for work each day. We also know that there is so much beauty in the Blue Mountains that it is not possible to see it all in one day. Despite this, currently, over 80 per cent of visitors to the Mountains are day trippers which means the local economy misses out on an enormous opportunity. On weekends our accommodation occupancy rates are very high and most of that occupancy is from domestic rather than international visitors. To capture the economic opportunity – and provide more local jobs – we need to secure more overnight stays from international guests. All those day trippers miss out on one of the greatest experiences – waking up in the Mountains!
To achieve this we need more accommodation that suits our world heritage environment and more attractions that create a reason for visitors to stay even when the weather is not ideal. Accommodation that could include family focussed holiday parks with cabins, caravan and camping sites, right through to eco-friendly five-star resorts. Attractions that could include mountain bike trails, family friendly bike parks, outdoor adventure playgrounds and night time bushwalks. A broad range of food experiences are proven draw-cards for successful tourism regions and we can build on the great offerings that already exist throughout the villages of the mountains. The Blue Mountains could become known for long breakfasts overlooking spectacular valley views and the potential for more farm gate, tea room and cellar door offers in the Megalong Valley is obvious.
The Blue Mountains Accommodation and Tourism Association, BMATA, is working on strategies to promote the region and capture more of the tourist dollar including branding and website improvements. If you are in the tourism sector I encourage you to join BMATA and add your voice to their plans.
Another opportunity is the convention and business event market. Already the Blue Mountains hosts many small conferences but there is opportunity mid-week to accommodate more. This needs to be part of improved promotion of the region. A convention facility in the Upper Mountains that seats 1000 could consolidate the Blue Mountains position as “a meeting place” and the place for symposia.
Tourism is already one of the largest employment sectors in the Blue Mountains with more than 2000 jobs spread throughout the local government area. That’s more than 12 per cent of the total jobs here. The opportunity exists however to grow this sector and create more local jobs.
Donald Luscombe AFSM, is Chairman of Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise