|We are addressing this email to you, as a Port Douglas business owner to address concerns we have as citizens living here in the shire.
At the heart of our concern is the dismal state of Douglas Tourism and the impact this is having on the overall Douglas Economy which is 80% dependent on the tourism sector.
The Douglas Shire Council website publishes a Douglas Gross Regional Product trend graph that demonstrates a decline of -16% between 2008 and 2017: from $767 million to $645 million. If we factor in CPI, the real decline is -36%.
For more on the economic issue visit our recent post.
But the history behind where we are today begins back in January 1998, when the DSC “signed off” their impressive 1998 Douglas Tourism Strategy Plan. This is a masterpiece in how to combine Tourism Strategies aimed at both Destination Management and Destination Marketing. It’s worth a read today since the Principles and Vision are still relevant. Sadly, DSC never implemented this iconic Tourism Strategy Plan due to the “politics” of the day!
Fast forward to April 2012 when the Melbourne Business School presented their Port Douglas Strategic Plan, which detailed facts and trends around the decline in Douglas Tourism, with clear recommendations on how to fix it. Imagine any Region receiving a 150+ page Strategic Plan at no cost – thirty mature MBA students spent January 2012 in Port Douglas researching the facts – and then the inevitable “conspiracy of silence”. Sadly, the content and recommendations were front and centre for a very limited time, and then filed in “the bottom drawer” late that year.
Several years later in 2015, many Port Douglas accommodation businesses were feeling the pinch as a result of declining accommodation tariffs, combined with the impact of Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s), such as Booking.com, Airbnb, Expedia and HomeAway. After a series of performance reviews across 14 Port Douglas Resorts, the concept of a collaborative Port Douglas Direct model was recommended to embrace the following core principles:
- Develop a compelling Douglas Tourism Direct Booking Website
- Develop relevant coordinated Marketing and Promotional Plans
- Develop a commercially driven Financial Plan to underpin profit
- Develop and manage a dynamic Douglas Tourism Customer Database
Sadly, despite the initial enthusiasm, the leadership was not solid enough to get it done.
In April this year, our company resurrected the Port Douglas Direct (PDD) business model, since OTA market share globally, had rapidly climbed from 30% to 70%. This further diminished the profitability and sustainability of Douglas Resort and Accommodation Providers. The following month over 30 business owners attended presentations for a technology based marketing solution through the launch of Discover Port Douglas. This was followed up by newspaper and media reports which in turn led to the Dick Smith OTA YouTube video which reached nearly 3 million views.
Yes it all began here in Port Douglas!
During September and October, over several meetings we met with directors of TPDD and attended their AGM, since we were keen to understand how the TPDD Board and Management would address the zero growth Douglas Tourism trends of the last ten years. The alarm bells began to ring, when only 30 or so TPDD Members out of 150 attended. Additionally, there were TPDD Directors who failed to attend such an important meeting. To make matters worse, not a single question was asked from the floor regarding 2017/18 AGM Report which highlighted contradictions from 2017 to 2018 Read more here …
The very next day, I wrote to Mayor Julia to express our concern. I received a “Thanks Gerry” acknowledgement, but to date have received no feedback, regarding the data and trends we reported to her. The letter to Julia can be read here:
Douglas Gross Regional Product is a measure of wealth in our community, and underpins the degree to which the citizens have a sense of well-being or anxiety around their families security and future prospects. No wonder there has been an ever increasing “struggle street sentiment” from businesses through the wider community. It’s a performance we simply cannot sustain.
The time is long overdue for change so we need to implement a transformational turnaround that will require a sense of urgency from all sectors of the community, as well as a strong leadership resolve to make the changes.
If you, like ourselves are concerned about what’s happening and wish to participate in the solution we urge you to contact us and get behind change.
We need as a community to tell DSC that it simply isn’t good enough, to meander on as if all is well in Tropical Paradise.
We urgently require our peak tourism body, TPDD to be transformed into a modern day commercial tourism organisation.
DSC should understand the urgency, and accept the clarion call for transformative change in how we run and manage Douglas Tourism.
Look I could go on and on…. .but we need action and now.
Gerry Ireland & Glenn Smith
Port Douglas Direct
Douglas ONE Tourism
More about Glenn & Gerry
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