by Tony Elshof
According to a UOW research paper by Garrett-Jones et al., “cities and regions around the world are attempting to ‘construct advantage’ by intervening to create knowledge and innovation based economic and social development.”
Wollongong has taken this path when it adopted the slogan ‘City of Innovation’ as part of a conscious decision to rebrand and rebuild the region.
Leading the campaign to share the secrets and passions of the Illawarra is Destination Wollongong headed by General Manager Mark Sleigh. At a recent Leadership Illawarra Program (LIP) event, Mark and two of his team, Tracey and Tabitha presented Destination’s Development Plan – their roadmap to delivering visitor economy growth by positioning Wollongong and surrounds as the premier regional tourism, events and conference destination.
A tremendous amount of research and work is being undertaken to turn Destination Wollongong’s vision into reality. Some of these include: identifying global trends; assessing current tourism offerings; proposing potential areas for tourism infrastructure; and developing actions to allow for tourism growth.
There are many players involved in this change process, including Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama councils, RDA Illawarra, the University of Wollongong, Cardno, and other regional stakeholders.
Some of the current growth trends identified include; Ecotourism; Cultural Tourism, Health and Wellness Tourism; Business Events Tourism; Adventure Travel and Sustainable Tourism.
Energetic discussions took place amongst the LIP participants around the immense potential of local Indigenous Tourism, the desire for new and exciting adventure experiences, and the need to refocus on tourism business development and financial support. These were seen as initiatives that could bring long term benefit to the region, and in particular, address some of the region’s youth unemployment concerns.
Australians tend to be passionate and parochial about their patch of land, and the people of the Illawarra are no different...with the 2010 ‘We Love the Gong’ campaign still generating ‘likes.’ We love our proximity to the mountains and the sea, the growing urban café culture, new retail developments, our genuine community atmosphere, and the relaxed pace of life that the ‘Gong’ offers.
Let’s inspire each other, in our places of work, in small and medium businesses, and in the private and public sectors to work together and innovate to make the Illawarra the place we know it can be.
Blog posts written by the Leadership Illawarra Program Cohort.