Bureaucracy and Tourism Like Chalk And Cheese

A contributory article by Joanna Gash MP (Mrs)
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism

One of the basic rules about retailing is not to impose obstacles to customers to spend their cash.

Obviously a prudent and sensible rule but one, it seems, that has not dawned on government bureaucracy.

In the area of tourism, it is the government’s role to introduce strategies to grow the industry.

Government is a stake holder in tourism, not only supplying the infrastructure but also as a custodian of natural resources upon which a lot of domestic tourism relies.

Take Kakadu Park as an example or Uluru or the Great Barrier Reef. Natural wonders – come and have a look.

Of course some wear and tear can be expected so it is fair enough to defray some of the operational costs. But it needs to be done in such a way as not to be a put off to the customer.

I was perturbed to read recently in an article by Ross Bennett on the website, http://www.onlineopinion.com.au that the NSW Government, or more specifically, the National Parks and Wildlife Service can charge people for taking photographs within a reserve or nature park.

It seems that under a very broad definition, photographers can be fined $3,300 for taking a snap. Although they talk about a ‘commercial photograph’, no one has bothered to define exactly what that means.

Can you imagine what sort of publicity that would generate and what sort of signal that would send to overseas or interstate tourists.

And there are similar policies in other jurisdictions which leads me to believe that perhaps with policies like these who needs a global financial down turn when you have a short sighted government?

The whole idea of taking photos is to capture special moments during your holiday.

I know when I see a parking ticket being issued to a car with out of state plates, I think of the sour taste that visitor will have when he tells his friends about his ‘special’ visit.

Talk about poor advertising and word of mouth constitutes a powerful communication medium.

In the 70’s, the Gold Coast Council had bikini-ed meter maids put coins into meters where visitors had outstayed their permit.

That is positive marketing, acknowledging the fact that you have to spend a buck to make a buck.

Not so some of our bureaucracies whose obsession with regulation and control can sometimes be a turn off.

Fining a visitor for some petty infringement is a liability not an asset. It shows that any sense of entrepreneurship, which is needed in tourism, is absent.

The key to successful tourism is the same as successful marketing; make them want more. To my mind, applying a $3,300 fine or even a small portion of the fine, represents a false economy.

Tourism has been in decline for the last ten years and in NSW, the State Labor Government actually cut the tourism budget before it dawned on them to have a look at the real world.

Ask yourself this; would you ever go back to a shop that charged you an entry fee?

No matter how you describe it, any levy, tax, fine, charge, toll or fee, without something to show for it, is not an inducement to try more.

Especially when it is done by an over bearing and zealous government agency. There are other, less intrusive ways of making a dollar and if the government wants to play in the business world, it should adopt the behaviour of the merchant. 

A note on hospitality for the government – Don’t put potential customers off before they even get there. I’m sure if they encouraged business, and business made money, they would get their share through increased tax revenues.

It’s called ‘profit sharing – Hello!  But you have to make the profit first before you can share it and that should be left to business.

Published: 8 April 2010

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