One of the Hunter Valley’s largest investors in tourism, the Schwartz Family Company (SFC), has welcomed the announcement of a special fund by the NSW Government to help revive the region’s tourism industry after last month’s devastating storms, but calls the AUD$1 million allocation “manifestly inadequate”.
SFC Director, Dr Jerry Schwartz, said the allocation would amount to very little promotion in the market place once administrative costs soaked up the funds.
“While I was pleased to hear of the Government’s initiative, I was appalled when I read about the size of the fund,” he said.
SFC has invested in three major hotels in the Hunter Valley – Crowne Plaza Newcastle, Novotel Newcastle and Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley – as well as the new Hunter Valley Convention Centre, Lovedale Brewery, Lovedale Distillery, Newcastle Brewery, Jade Winery, and Brew Sky Airways.
“Unfortunately, the Hunter Valley remains a ‘well kept secret’ for most people living in NSW and Australia, and $1 million will not go very far to change that perception,” he said.
“SFC has invested over $100 million into the Hunter region, and I have just spent $6 million building the largest convention centre in regional NSW, and because of the manifestly inadequate levels of support for Hunter tourism, I will now need to spend even more money to market the region so that we can attract groups to the Hunter.
“Already, we self-fund the Hunter Valley Wine Festival, which takes place at the Crowne Plaza on 20 June. We revived the Festival after a 30 year absence because while it costs our company some $150, 000, it was inconceivable to me that the Hunter Valley didn’t have an official regional wine festival to celebrate its produce.
“We were granted a $500,000 Tourism Infrastructure grant two years ago, under the previous government, towards developing the convention centre and another hotel which I wanted to build in Newcastle, but I was unable to take up this grant, because we weren’t able to commence building. In fact, we still await development approval for the hotel despite the submission being made almost three years ago.
“We are putting our tourism investment money where our mouth is. I have just purchased a sea-plane for an air route which I wish to run from Cessnock Airport to Rose Bay harbour via Newcastle Harbour; but once again have had no help from any of the three authorities to facilitate landing in each of these three ports.
“I have realised that we will need to self-fund the upgrades to SFC’s three large hotels in the Hunter region, but would at least expect assistance with the development process.
“We also expect significantly greater funds to be allocated for marketing tourism in the Hunter Valley. Sydney’s Convention Centre will not open for another 18 months, so this is the perfect time to market the region for major conferences.
“The Hunter Valley needs a vibrant tourism industry if we are to generate sustainable future employment, and the NSW Government would be better off allocating the $1 million directly to the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association – which now has full council support – to promote the region’s tourism assets. That would be the best and most efficient allocation of scarce funds,” he said.