I recently saw an advertisement from an insurance company. It was advertising a “Visiting Friends and Relatives” insurance package for travel insurance. This travel sector only started to be taken seriously in the mid-nineties but there are now entire insurance packages dedicated to it. Once it was identified as a sector, it quickly became apparent just how much tourism was generated by this sector.

If you take Dubbo as an example, 30.9 per cent of our overnight visitors list their top activity undertaken in Dubbo as visiting their friends and relatives. When you consider we have some 400,000 overnight visitors in Dubbo each year, that translates to a whopping 123,600 visitors to Dubbo because of an existing connection. People in Dubbo must be popular – that is over 3 visitors for every man, woman and child in Dubbo each year.

This tourism sector is increasingly being identified as more important in tourism markets across the world, and with good reason. It costs less to market to this sector (word of mouth is the driving communication method) and research shows that this sector typically outspends non-VFR travellers.

Our overall average length of stay for overnight visitors in Dubbo is 2.3 nights so that equates to 920,000 visitor nights in Dubbo. At our average spend of $132 per person per night, that equates to a whopping injection to our economy of over $120 million. The VFR market accounts for $38 million of this.

With the holiday season upon us, the best thing that residents of any community could do would be to encourage more activity in the VFR market. It is as easy as a post on Facebook or Twitter, sending an e-mail or text, even making an old-fashioned phone call. If each resident could just add one more visitor to our City to stay one more night, that would inject $5 million into our economy. That is a pretty good return on a few minutes of your time to contact a friend or relative.

We have started several initiatives to try and encourage you to help with this tourism sector. If you visit our Old Dubbo Gaol and demonstrate you live in our local government area, you receive free entry. Not just once and not just for an hour or two. You can come back as often as you like and stay as long as you like (maybe not overnight – you might cramp the style of the alleged ghosts of executed prisoners). We want our locals to be familiar with this important tourist attraction. I find it fascinating that it existed as a courthouse lockup before Dubbo was even declared a Village. I find it an interesting reflection on society at the time that eight men were hung from 1877 through to 1905. When friends visit, we want our locals to take their friends for a visit to the Gaol and show them some of our fascinating history.

We have also started a competition to snap a selfie (Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year for 2013) with some out-of-town mates at one of our iconic locations.

Just a week ago, we launched our first ever packages. Many people assume that packages are primarily designed to save money but the feedback suggests that time-poor tourists want simplicity and convenience. Our first packages bundle together three attraction visits and food. Again the concept is to make it as easy as possible for you to ‘sell’ Dubbo to your friends and relatives and keep them in our City for a day or two longer than the average.

There you have my Christmas wish. I think this is the greatest City in the world – which is why I choose to live here. Presumably the majority of our residents have also made the choice to live in this wonderful City – so all I ask for Christmas is that you tell your friends and family that you want them to visit you. There is no time better than the Christmas holidays. Use a personal approach combined with social media. The more we talk about it and the more it is heard, the more likely it will be that people listen to the message. It is good for Dubbo, good for our businesses and good for you.

If you are afraid of Aunt Mabel actually staying at your house and leaving her teeth on the bedside table, keep in mind that only 39.9 per cent of visitors actually stay at your place. They will often stay at traditional accommodation but they are primarily here to visit you.

I look forward to seeing those increased overnight visitation numbers over the Christmas period.

I wish all of our residents (and visitors) all the very best for Christmas and the New Year. This has been a very productive year for Council and the City. My thanks go to all of my fellow Councillors and Council staff for making my job the most exciting and rewarding job in the world and I look forward to another productive year in 2014.

Clr Mathew Dickerson

Mayor of the City of Dubbo




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