The Port Douglas community must acknowledge, confront, and overcome its challenges if it is to return to prosperity according to the Melbourne Business School who delivered their key findings on their 'Revitalise Port Douglas' project at a meeting on Saturday at the Port Douglas Community Hall after months of research and analysis.
The main message on the lips of the MBS' Associate Professor Selwyn D'Souza, who presented the results of the research at the meeting, was the absolute need for the community and its leaders to unify.
"You don't have a Buckley's chance in hell without a shared vision," he said.
He pointed to a missed opportunity in securing millions in Government funding for the waterfront development as an example of being unable to work together.
"I think we stuffed it (Regional Development Australia Fund funding). All stakeholder groups didn't harness (the opportunity) and co-ordinate."
D'Souza said the town's residents needed to make all of our leaders (not only those in government) more accountable for the results they deliver, drawing on the analogy that if a person working in a company repeatedly underperformed in their job they would lose their position.
The group cited a leadership vacuum in Port Douglas but stopped short in recommending a leadership group to tackle the challenges.
He said a collapse of 20% in regional tourism in 2006 from which the town has not recovered was a root cause of the problems, and added that since then there has not been a co-ordinated response to the decline which he labelled a "downward spiral."
The findings reflected a "loss and dilution" of the town's premium tourism destination status resulting in declining room rates and a change in visitor demographics.
D'Souza said it was important to deliver such a great experience to visitors, including repeat visitors, that they would return even more often.
He told a group of around 60 people who gathered at the meeting to stop hoping for a change in external factors (such as a fall in the Australian Dollar or investment in the Sheraton Mirage) to solve the town's problems.
"People need to face up to the part they play, whether it be positive or negative. Put acid on yourself to deliver.
"I believe this is paradise on Earth. We have to get that heart and soul back," he said.
What the MBS suggest
1. Establish a shared long-term goal
2. Set a target for tourism growth of 5% pa over the next five years ensuring accountability of those charged with meeting those targets
3. Duplicate the success of others
4. Secure "catalytic" investment and obtain the services of experts in securing investment at a government and private level
5. Achieve "alignment of leadership" and create a unified leadership structure
6. Increase service standards ("Overwhelming thing is service levels are terrible" - perceptions found by MBS students)
7. Look at enhancing our commitment to emerging Asian economies
8. Invest in infrastructure that enhances Port Douglas' vision and identity
9. Develop an holistic plan for the tourism industry - who do we want to target?
10. Use the total solar eclipse in November to showcase the region for the future, not just for immediate returns
Who do you think can lead Port Douglas into the future? Have your say below?
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