Tourism builds region's reputation
AMID the media coverage of LNG and alumina in the Gladstone region, it is easy to forget about other sectors.
The region's tourism operators have a simple message for the business world: tourism still matters.
The obvious jewel in the crown is Heron Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.
Heron Island PR manager Jill Collins said tourism was still a major contributor to the region's economic development.
Heron Island attracts thousands of guests every year, and they all spend money in the region on ferries, motels, dining and more.
However Ms Collins said there was another, unrecognised, benefit for the region.
"It contributes in a way over and beyond (the economic benefits)," she said.
"It creates awareness of what the region has to offer."
Ms Collins said tourism in the region helped with "reputation building", and reminded residents and outsiders what an amazing place this was.
She said a renewed focus on creating popular events, such as the Heron Island Dive Festival and the open swimming event in September, had raised the economic value of the sector.
The region's other great tourism area is Agnes Water/Seventeen Seventy.
Discovery Coast Tourism Council president Katherine Mergard said people needed to remember why the region's tourism sector still mattered.
"It matters because the Gladstone region is about much more than Gladstone city or the port's activities," she said.
While big industry is an employment driver in the region's northern areas, to the south it is tourism that brings home the bacon.
Countless small businesses are dependent on the health of the sector there.
The name Gladstone conjures images of coal ships and LNG projects, so rather than marketing itself as The Gladstone Region, Ms Mergard said the Gladstone region had joined forces with Bundaberg and Capricornia to market itself as the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
It is a name that provides potential tourists with a geographic point of reference.
Perhaps the words Great Barrier Reef also reminds us of a business resource we forget too easily.