On Thursday the Minister for Regional Development, John Barilaro, launched the ‘Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Alliance’, in a ceremony in Hunter Valley Wine Country before stakeholders of Cessnock City Council, Singleton Council and the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association.
The Alliance will aim to increase visitors to the region, double overnight visitor expenditure by 2020, and will be led by the inaugural Chairman and previous Minister for Tourism, George Souris.
“This is an important day in the life of the State, a first time approach: the inauguration of a unique concept to combine the forces of two Local Government Areas involved and the representative organisation of the Hunter Valley wine and tourism industries,” the new Chairman George Souris said.
“I look forward to working closely with Minister for Regional Development, Skills and Small Business John Barilaro MP and my other former colleagues Premier Mike Baird, Deputy Premier Troy Grant and Trade and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayers.”
The Hunter Valley is recognised as the signature wine district of NSW and is virtually at the back door of some 5.5 million domestic residents in Sydney and the Hunter, and a very close distance from the gateway airport and cruise ship epicentre of Australia delivering some 83.5 million tourists to NSW annually.
“It’s about having no borders when it comes to promoting the visitor experience. Whether it be the mural walk in Kurri Kurri, a leisurely drive to historic Wollombi, bass fishing on Lake St Clair, visiting the Australian Army Infantry Museum in Singleton or working your way around the boutique village food and wine trails of Broke and Hermitage Road, there is so much on offer. It is critical for stakeholders of our beautiful tourist area to have one voice in order to grow the capacity of the destination and ensure sustainable, economic and industry growth,” he continued.
The Alliance will move towards partnering on critical projects and achieving a common platform for booking accommodation, events and operations. Its funding opportunities and planning will link in with the NSW Government’s Visitor Economy Taskforce Report and Action Plan.
“International tourists will be encouraged to travel due to the strength of the Australian dollar, domestic tourists will be encouraged to tour within Australia and we must all ensure we pursue excellence and the world’s best practice to ensure the Hunter is at the forefront of the NSW economy.”
Councillor Pynsent also spoke at the launch, stating that the tourism and hospitality sectors were now the biggest employers of local people and it was important all parties worked together to grow this vital tourism industry.
“It is well known there has been a downturn in mining across the region,” Cr Pynsent said.
“As we move away from the traditional manufacturing-based business, our visitor economy has continued to grow.”
Hunter Valley Wine Country received up to 1.5 million visitors last year. Direct visitor expenditure is estimated to be $295 million within the region.
“Our region boasts a signature wine district with world class music events, international golf courses, fine dining and impressive accommodation,” Cr Pynsent said.
“I look forward to working together to grow this vital tourism industry while acting as one voice to promote this unique region.”
The alliance meets monthly and will attract appropriate levels of funding, develop critical industry offerings and facilitate strategic alliances.
Image | Minister for Regional Development, Skills and Small Business John Barilaro MP, Alliance Chairman George Souris, Cessnock City Mayor Cr Bob Pynsent and Singleton Mayor Cr John Martin.
Local government has been in operation in the Cessnock area since 1906 when the Shire of Cessnock held its first meeting. During the following years there were several amalgamations and splits as new Shires were formed and reshaped until Cessnock was declared a City in 1958.
Cessnock City Council provides a diverse range of services and facilities for the residents of the LGA as well as visitors to the area.