Tourism turmoil over merger edict
GRANITE Belt Wine and Tourism (GBWT) members will soon decide whether to amalgamate with Warwick Tourism and Events, or forfeit council funding to "go it alone".
The deliberations follow last week's announcement from the Southern Downs Regional Council that the two entities would combine to form a single Local Tourism Organisation by July 2014.
GBWT marketing manager Sarah Reeves said the Stanthorpe-based organisation could pull out of the merger.
"Yes we can opt out but that would mean council funding would be cut," she said.
"It would change how we do business but it's an option that we have to put to our members.
"We have to decide whether to go ahead and not know if our brand will be protected, or to go it alone and re-evaluate how we do things."
Unlike the wholly government-funded Warwick Tourism and Events, GBWT is only partially funded by the council, relying heavily on its members for financial support.
As such, Ms Reeves said it was the members who would have the final say.
"At the end of the day we represent a majority of tourism operators and it comes down to what our members decide," she said.
Ms Reeves said GBWT members felt the council had ignored their requests in the decision-making process - particularly a clause put forward that stipulated the merger would not take place unless agreed upon by all stakeholders.
"Board members from GBWT have been in consultation with the council about this for four-and-a-half years now - that's time away from their businesses unpaid," she said.
"When the recommendations they put forward are ignored, it's plain disrespectful.
"I've been trying to meet with the council about this for six months, but I've never had a response. Not once did anyone indicate that the timeframe would be this quick.
"Because of the way the council has dealt with this we have lost faith in the process."
GBWT board members will discuss the issue further at a meeting tomorrow night.
In relation to Thursday's story, "Tourism board merger ire", we wish to clarify comments made by Ms Reeves.
Ms Reeves did not state the formation of a single tourism body was "utter stupidity" as quoted, rather she was critical of the way the council handled the process and the concept of a single tourism marketing brand. Our apologies for any confusion caused.