Regional tourism operators receive $48.5 million boost

Regional tourism operators have been given until mid-December to apply for a grant of up to $250,000 through the Federal Government’s new $48.5 million Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund.


The fund, launched by Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson, will offer merits-based grants to regional tourism businesses looking to improve their offerings.


The program offers grants from $50,000 to $250,000 on a matched dollar-for-dollar funding basis. A major focus of the program is to improve the quality of accommodation and attractions in regional areas.


Funding is also available for innovative projects to attract interstate and international visitors, and extend the length of their stay.


Applications will close on December 14. Successful applicants are expected to be announced in March next year and funding agreements will be implemented from April.


It’s worth noting projects must be completed by March 2015.


Eligible applicants will need to demonstrate how the project is market responsive, improves the attractiveness of the destination and fits with the region’s tourism experience.


Successful grant recipients will be expected to be already working closely with regional industry partners, tourism organisations and local authorities.


The Victoria Tourism Industry Council has thrown its support behind the fund, saying it will open doors for innovation in the industry.


“The funding is a welcome announcement that will help position Australia… as a competitive and attractive investment and tourism destination,” chief executive Dianne Smith says.


“We are particularly pleased that some revenue from the Passenger Movement Charge is being reinvested back into the tourism industry through this initiative.”


According to Smith, 45 cents out of every tourist dollar spent in Australia is spent in regional areas, so it’s essential for products to remain fresh and innovative.


“Further investment in the regions will encourage continued future success,” Smith says.


While VTIC rejoices over the grants program, another major tourism body has voiced its concern about the government’s decision to increase the backpacker visa charge from $280 to $350.


The decision was made as part of the government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, released on Monday.


According to John Lee, chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, it could cause backpackers to seek alternative destinations for travel.


“Taxes and other charges add on to each other… They could question their destination and choose to go to Canada or New Zealand, where visas are cheaper,” Lee told SmartCompany.


“It’s just sending the wrong message.”


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