Opinion: Dungog Regional Tourism Chair Cameron Archer AM

Despite the drought and dreadful summer fire season we must not forget that the opportunities for tourism in the Dungog region continue to be strong, and remain as one of the region's most promising avenues for economic and community development.

I believe there is increasing interest in domestic travel including more people choosing to holiday at home due to the Coronavirus, and also there is a desire by many to travel to country areas to boost economic activity given the drought and fires.

Dungog Regional Tourism (DRT) has been working on long term initiatives to support tourism.

A number of brochures promoting local attractions and activities will soon be available online and from the Dungog Shire Visitor Information Centre and local businesses. Work also continues on expending the grant to enhance camping and outdoor recreation especially at Dungog Common and Gresford Recreation Reserve.

In the next few weeks DRT will be undertaking a small but very important survey to record the economic impact on local businesses of the closure of the local State Forests and National Parks over the Christmas/New Year period and the low levels of the rivers in the shire. We suspect that there has been a significant impact on local businesses in Dungog, Gresford and Clarence Town in particular.

We are planning to prepare a Destination Management Plan for the region. While it is easy to dismiss such activities as just more words on paper with nothing happening on the ground, these plans are vital when seeking future grant funds. DRT was established as a result of a similar report in 2015, so needs to be replaced with an up to date report. This will guide future developments and identify opportunities for further investment, be it private or public.

The DRT Board has a new member, James Slack of Eccleston. James has a background in business, farming and some interests in local tourism. We look forward to James' perspective and contribution especially as we embark on the preparation of a new Destination Management Plan.

There are plenty of headwinds out there, so we must all collaborate and work together to make things happen, including with Dungog District Chamber of Commerce, Dungog Arts Foundation and Dungog Shire Events. We need to communicate the issues and the opportunities, share the problems and also the successes.