Australian Regional Tourism Network Convention Highlights

Linda Tillman and Tilma Group intern, Kushla Gale, attended the recent Australian Regional Tourism Network Convention in Roma. Linda is on the board of directors of the ARTN, currently working with the National Farmer's Federation to develop agritourism to diversify income streams for farmers.

The convention provided a forum for discussing, debating and investigating the issues, challenges and opportunities of regional tourism. The convention's theme of envisioning 2030, and necessary reforms to planning, funding, infrastructure, product and marketing, as well as inspiring success stories filled the convention's program.

The convention hosted federal and state tourism ministers, leaders of tourism associations such as Tourism Australia and state tourism marketing and industry organisations, regional tourism organisations, councils, tourism researchers, and industry leaders in regional areas, amongst others. 

Tilma Group left full of ideas and inspired to take charge towards 2030, especially in regards to what's needed for regional destinations to prepare for Chinese visitors, a high-spend market with unbelievable growth in the coming decade. 

All photos by Jackie Erickson

All photos by Jackie Erickson

Pre-convention famil – Carnarvon Gorge

Our amazing hosts, Maranoa Regional Council, took convention guests on a tour of tourism in the Maranoa, from Roma through Injune to the Carnarvon Gorge, visiting the Injune Visitor Information Centre, hearing insights into the country by a local farmer, learning about the biologist-led eco Boobook Tours at Wallaroo Campsite and National Parks and Wildlife responsibilities, enjoying the walk into the gorge, and visiting the Takarakka Bush Resort & Wilderness Lodge.


‘Visioning 2030’ was the topic for day one at the Australian Regional Tourism Convention, held in Queensland’s outback this week.

Delegates were propelled into the possible world of 2030, hearing from futurist Morris Miselowski, Griffith University Researcher Char-Lee McLennan, five young tourism professionals and the National Farmers Federation.

Discussions were held around what will the world of 2030 look like. What will people want from their travel? What can regional tourism do to start preparing for it?


Key take-outs from Day One: 

  •  Better use of data to understand consumers and product development needs and opportunities;
  • A significant population boom, with a large percentage of 60+ and multi-generations, influencing the future of regional tourism;
  • TECHNOLOGY! There is no denying how rapidly this will grow, but for tourism the opportunity is in offering experiences that provide an escape from this, an opportunity to unplug;
  • Consumers will want more experiences that offer soft adventure, spirituality, health and nature;
  • Although technology will play a critical role in the tourism world of 2030, the industry needs to consider the human element;
  • There will be changing trends with international markets, which regions need to embrace.


Welcome Reception – the Big Rig

We experienced Roma’s premier attraction, one of RACQ's top must-dos in Queensland, a presentation of the area’s history of gas mining and its personalities, and a fascinating open air museum.


Day two of the Australian Regional Tourism Network Convention saw great discussion and debate around the politics of regional tourism, what holds regional tourism back from achieving greatness, and how we can better fund Regional Tourism Development.

According to ARTN Chair David Sheldon, this was a great interactive session that brought all levels of the industry together for open and honest discussion.

“The panel session brought industry and government together to openly discuss the national issues currently facing regional tourism. Topics around enabling infrastructure, growing the supply side of the industry, fibre-optic NBN and alternative funding models are just some things that were discussed”, commented Mr Sheldon.


Key take-outs from Day Two:

  • We need to enable infrastructure development in regions, in order to drive dispersal out of the major tourism hot spots;
  • Many regions throughout Australia are unable to deliver on the marketing message promised by government agencies. They need to build the supply and capacity before they can do this well;
  • Federal Shadow Minister for Tourism Anthony Albanese MP pledged that his Government will roll out the fibre-optic NBN, noting that it is critical for regional tourism growth;
  • The Shadow Minister also commented that he would like to see a Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which allows Local Government to apply for priority projects;
  • There is a need to open up regional airports to international travel, if we wish to attract the rapidly growing middle class China and India markets;
  • Innovating and reinventing is key to destination success;
  • Collaboration and partnerships will drive regional and rural tourism growth.


Other key learnings:

Have you ever tried to design the perfect visitor experience in your destination? This is an exercise everyone should undertake in order to be able to deliver a better visitor experience.

Entrepreneur Neil Druce recommends everyone be different, be passionate and courageous and always focus on the customer.


Dinner at the Royal on 99 Hotel

Roma’s newest hotel… wow! The standard of product and service in the Outback can match the best of the city with visionary investment.


Breakfast at the Roma Stockyards

Convention guests were shown a mock bull sale of hand-reared breeding bulls, and witnessed the quick sales of stock in pens below the walkover. Engaged volunteers could fill out the meaning behind the scenes.

Destination Q

This gathering of industry professionals and the Queensland government took place in Mackay simultaneously with the beginning of the ARTN convention. The Queensland Premier and half of the cabinet (7 ministers) were present, demonstrating that the government is focusing on tourism more today than at any time in the last 20 years as 1 in 8 businesses and 1 in 11 jobs are in tourism (mining is much less). A summary of the event was given at the ARTN convention.

The 2016 State of the Industry report showcases the success of the Queensland tourism industry over the last year. The report covers key highlights across government and industry, including insights from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.  Advancing Tourism 2016–20 is the Queensland Government’s plan to grow tourism and jobs. 


Tourism Australia

  • According to CEO John O’Sullivan we have a great opportunity in tourism at the moment – the stars are aligning for our industry!
  • Festivals and events are great for international dispersal and increased spend in regions
  • Tourism will continue to grow as an economic driver, which means it is becoming more competitive
  • Consumer wants are changing: experiential travel (live like a local); word of mouth advocacy will remain key!
  • There is going to be ongoing dramatic growth in tourism towards 2030
‘The future belongs to the ones who are most adaptable to change’


Dinner under the Stars

Maranoa Regional Council charmed convention guests with a showcase of Outback experiences with an entertaining and informative dog trial show and liberty horsemanship display, followed by a dinner of local produce in beautifully country-styled surrounds.

The winner of the Young Tourism Professional competition was announced during the dinner - Michelle Reynolds of Skytrek Willow Springs Station in the Flinders Ranges, SA. Michelle engaged her audience by transmitting facts in the context of a story as she imagined road trips in the past, present and future scenarios, describing the differences in travellers’ experiences as she explained moment by moment the holidays.


All in all, an amazing convention bringing together industry operators, decision-makers, influencers and government to focus on growing regional communities through tourism. There is a lot to be hopeful about in this industry!



Kushla GaleComment