An open letter to our new Tourism CEO

OFF

The Courier April 14, 2016

First, let me welcome Noel Dempsey, the newly appointed CEO of Ballarat Regional Tourism to our city. And in doing so, may I offer some insights into Ballarat, one of Australia’s premier regional cities.

I came to Ballarat in 1982 and, to my mind, it has the best of both worlds –captivating history and heritage, as well as contemporary world-class attractions and outdoor escapes, and an urban lifestyle that offers a rich arts, food, wine and recreation culture.

Our cosmopolitan city boasts all the artistic and cultural wealth that comes with its spectacular rise from a humble pastoral and mining settlement, where the Eureka Stockade Rebellion occurred, to its current position as a world-class city.

Despite what may be said about Ballarat’s weather, this city has a temperate European climate with four distinct seasons: spring – same as Athens, Greece; summer – same as Barcelona, Spain; autumn – same as Rome, Italy; and winter – same as Nice, France. And for us who love this city, we don’t apologise for our weather – we embrace it; for fashionistas, it’s a dream.

It’s a place where you can sip coffee in a chic city cafe, then, minutes later, be walking or cycling along a bushland trail surrounded by the beauty of nature.

In the 1850s, a rich tapestry of cultures was present on the Ballarat goldfields; The fledgling city back then was Australia’s first multicultural community with over 20 nationalities represented on its goldmining sites.

And of course Ballarat’s point of difference in the nation is that it is the place of the Battle at the Eureka Stockade, Australia’s only armed civil uprising, which occurred on 3 December 1854 on the Eureka Lead.

It was an event that became a defining moment in Australia’s history. And it is the reason that Ballarat must continue to ‘stake its claim’ as ‘the birthplace of the Australian spirit’ – the spirit of fairness and a fair go for all – that was born at Eureka.

The money that flowed into Ballarat with the discovery of gold in the mid-19th century resulted in the creation of a city of stature, elegance and charm, with exceptional history, architecture, broad, tree-lined streetscapes and cultivated gardens.

It can be felt when you walk the streets and marvel at the grand buildings and discover the cultural treasures.

Stroll along Ballarat’s historic ‘marvellous’ Lydiard Street to discover a treasure trove of architectural beauty and places of cultural significance such as the Art Gallery, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Craig’s Royal Hotel and the Mining Exchange.

Ballarat’s unique combination of attributes makes it one of Australia’s leading regional centres, built on creative endeavour and innovation that has influenced the city for over 160 years, with a diverse range of industries and employment opportunities, as well as offering a healthy and rewarding lifestyle.

There are significant advantages that Ballarat has to offer. It is one of Australia’s fastest growing regional cities, where residents enjoy access to exceptional education, health, recreation, retail, hospitality, arts and culture, employment and lifestyle options of a capital city and, of course, tourism.

Ballarat has world-renowned attractions that include Sovereign Hill and the associated Gold Museum, the Ballarat Wildlife Park, the historic Eureka Stockade Gardens and Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE) and, of course, Lake Wendouree and the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

Our historic city is fascinating for anyone seeking to discover the intrigues of the past whilst enjoying today’s comforts and delights.

It provides an opportunity for today’s Australians and international visitors to enjoy their own self-drive journeys, make their own discoveries about Eureka and be inspired by our country’s democratic values, and reflect on what it means to be Australian in the 21st century.

Ballarat is also well known for hosting national and international sporting events that involve local people, Australians from other parts of the country and overseas participants.

Ballarat is also the gateway to the Goldfields tourist region. Some two million visitors come to Ballarat each year, contributing in excess of over half a billion dollars annually to the local economy.

As one of Australia’s largest inland cities, Ballarat offers a powerful combination of a well-suited location, exceptional services and creative endeavour that provide for a healthy lifestyle.

Ballarat can truly be proud of its reputation as a city of arts, culture, history, heritage and economic prosperity.

Ballarat’s proximity to Melbourne is also an important factor. Rail commuter numbers to Melbourne have tripled over recent years, and commuters and tourists are choosing to use the train to experience this wonderful city. Can you imagine the benefits of a 45-minute express train? With the political ‘will’ and strong support from Ballarat, it can happen.

The future is as exciting and as full of promise as it was for our forebears some 160 years ago.

As you will have noticed I have used descriptors such as: ‘discover’, ‘explore’, ‘experience’, ‘enjoy’, ‘inspire’ ‘marvel’! Notice I haven’t used ‘Wander’!

Why do I question ‘Wander’, you might ask? Well it means ‘to ramble without a definite purpose or objective’, which is not we want visitors to do when they come to Ballarat. We want them to come here with a sense of purpose.

I assure you I don’t live in the past. Please, Mr Dempsey, don’t introduce that term for the promotion of Ballarat. Just because Victorian Tourism has chosen to ditch ‘You will love every piece of Victoria’ – which was a great tagline (internationally acclaimed) – for ‘Wander Victoria’, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this new term is appropriate for Ballarat.

Our point of difference should be first and foremost, then we must stake our claim. We must consider what is ‘Brand Ballarat’.

History still is one of the significant reasons tourists travel across the world, particularly to Europe and the UK, and that is what Ballarat offers in Australia.

In my opinion, it is our significant sense of place in Australia’s history, our tourist attractions, arts and culture, pride and achievement, led by imagination, innovation and creativity that drives our progressive premier regional city.

You, and all our visitors, can enjoy, discover, experience, explore and be inspired by every part of Ballarat and our region.

Ron Egeberg

Candidate for the 2016 Ballarat City Council Election

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This post was written by , posted on May 29, 2016 Sunday at 6:11 pm

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