Are we marketing the ‘Gong properly?

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If you believe the hype about visitation numbers you would have to say Wollongong definitely needs more hotels to handle all the tourists.

But what I’m actually seeing is two major facilities being closed down. One, a purpose built landmark establishment in the CBD, built with great fanfare by a leading international hotel brand, becoming yet another hostel for UOW students.

And the other, in Burelli Street – incidentally once a favourite drinking hole – has recently become a 90-bed private psychiatric hospital.

What’s happening?

Some operators say that tourism is under threat with the high Aussie dollar being blamed for lower numbers of international travellers and locals taking advantage by grabbing cheap international flights and even cheaper overseas accommodation.

However I would strongly suggest that the causes are in fact lot closer to home than that.

No matter what spin you may care to put on it (and I will not even talk about Aunty Jack era smoke stack imagery) Wollongong has always had a scarcity of world class ‘artificial’ tourist attractions – with Jim Eddy’s Jamberoo Park being the notable exception. And you would have to say HARS at Albion Park now also coming on strong.

Are we marketing Wollongong properly?

Having been involved in many navel gazing exercises over the years I can say that when it comes to marketing ourselves as a region we haven’t actually advanced all that much in the past two decades.

Sure we get lots of student related visitations but the reality is that our overt physical attractions are not usually enough to hold visitors’ attention for more than a day and we simply can’t compete with the countless temptations of the big bad city only an hour up the road.

Of course the rail link, which could be a great tourist attraction itself, also lets us down with trip times seemingly still on the rise and no on-board refreshments of any kind. All very uncivilised.

If it did not take nearly four hours for a return trip from Sydney to Wollongong and back I’m sure many overseas visitors to NSW’ capital (the most popular entry point in Australia) would leap at the opportunity to visit the region for the day, particularly if we had some nice eating establishments, within walking distance from the station.

What’s my solution?

Well I haven’t thought about it much recently … but if pressed I would trot out my old favourite … build on ‘Industry World’.

It has always amazed me that people will travel all over the world to visit historic breweries, old fashioned factories of differing varieties, and car museums.

And I know this may sound strange to many people but I have always thought the Port Kembla steelworks was an absolutely amazing place.

I can still remember seeing the steelworks for the first time nearly thirty years ago… locals don’t appreciate it … but it’s meant to be the largest manufacturing plant in whole of the southern hemisphere … it’s huge.

Forget who told me that … but don’t let some facts spoil a good story … in any event if it isn’t the largest these days it is still right up there.

And I would add a museum. A live technology based one, something akin to HARS, but built around our historical links with mining, steelmaking, construction and bulk transport.

I could go on.

Anyway you asked me, can you suggest anything better?

CONTRIBUTOR – Drew Martin: Historical construction equipment is the on-going fascination of this Wollongong based and now retired earthmover. And it was this strange obsession, together with senior links with the industry and the characters within it, that were the catalyst for his professional writing career and the original reason for adopting a pen name. After appearing each month for nearly a decade with his popular and always controversial Ripping Yarns column in the trade magazine The Earthmover & Civil Contractor Drew next tried his hand at childrens books with his REX-3 The Robot Excavator series being published well before Bob the Builder first appeared on book shelves. In recent years DM has largely turned his attention online and continues to amuse a younger audience with his original way of looking at what most other people consider completely normal life.

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