New Tourism Accommodation Strategy aims to boost events and industry growth for Wollongong | PS News

New Tourism Accommodation Strategy aims to boost events and industry growth for Wollongong | PS News
New Tourism Accommodation Strategy aims to boost events and industry growth for Wollongong | PS News

Wollongong during the 2022 Road World Championships. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

A Tourism Accommodation Strategy is expected to further open up Wollongong as a venue for major sporting events, international film projects and key business conferences as it aims to overcome the struggle to find accommodation options.

To develop the strategy, Wollongong City Council is inviting expert industry input to ensure its approach supports industry to deliver tourism accommodation options that meet the needs of visitors.

Wollongong City Council general manager Greg Doyle said tourism provided a range of employment opportunities and the delivery of more accommodation providers would critically contribute to that.

“We’re at an interesting juncture in terms of the city’s development right now and council has a role to play in considering Development Applications that can increase the quantity of hotels and other accommodation forms in the city,” Mr Doyle said.

He said so far council had considered land zoning, land uses, heights and floor space allowances and parking requirements that apply to tourism development, but input from industry would add another dimension to its research.

“We want to draw on the knowledge of specialists, property and business advocacy groups and a range of partners, including Destination Wollongong, Destination Sydney Surrounds South, Business Illawarra, the Property Council and investors and hoteliers, to then develop a clear strategy that sets out a direction and pathway forward for the city,” he said.

Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said the biggest challenge for Wollongong to continue to grow the visitor economy had always been a lack of short-term accommodation.

“The work that the State Government is doing at the moment with the short-term rental accommodation strategy and repurposing some of that into social housing and low income housing is a real challenge for an area like us,” Mr Sleigh said.

“Wollongong has about 1000 hotel rooms at any one time, whereas somewhere like Newcastle has about 3500.

“When we try to compete with other comparative regions for events, obviously the accommodation prices are driven by availability and somewhere like Newcastle having three to four times the capacity we do makes it very hard to compete.”

Mr Sleigh said with hotels taking five to seven years from concept to opening their doors, he welcomed council’s proposal to find a way as a region to be able to bring the hotel rooms out of the ground as quickly as possible.

He said the other issue was that hotels were generally built in the CBD, on a foreshore or associated with another point of interest, like an entertainment centre.

“When you look at the land that’s available in Wollongong, and you compare it to somewhere like Newcastle, the prices for that land are between four and six times as much in Wollongong as what they are in Newcastle.

“So they’ve been able to continue to develop hotels, and we’ve been standing still.”

Mr Sleigh said a big part of the puzzle for government was how to better use some of their land, whether local government or state government, to facilitate hotel development, because hotel development would never stack up against residential development for a private operator.

He said with the Shellharbour marina having rooms coming and Kiama with one hotel, this was a regional challenge.

“It’s not just a Wollongong challenge, it’s something the whole of the region needs to work together on.”

Already, there are seven approved Development Applications for yet-to-be constructed hotels to create more than 640 additional rooms in the city centre if built, and a further two Development Applications under assessment for a combined 457 rooms.

“With this strategy in place, we can better guide the growth and evolution of hotels and other types of accommodation across the Local Government Area and see proposals, should they be approved, to move into construction phase as soon as possible,” Mr Doyle said.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery AM said Wollongong demonstrated it could host world-class sporting events like the NSW Darts Masters in 2023, the UCI Road World Championships in 2022 and the World Triathlon Championship Finals next year.

He said the city’s profile had also been raised through film and television productions of Paramount+ series One Night, the BBC murder series Return to Paradise and blockbuster movie Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes in the region.

“Whether we’re talking about world-class athletes or television and film production, opportunities like these can generate money in the local economy and support employment opportunities,” Cr Bradbery said.

“However, if we get the mix of accommodation right and a good balance with available beds in the city, it opens Wollongong up further to build on attracting sporting events and creative projects to the city as well as conferencing opportunities.

“With each of these opportunities comes a benefit to our local community that doesn’t just support employment, but also investment in the city.”

Planning of a draft Tourism Accommodation Strategy comes as council launched the 2024 Invest Wollongong Prospectus, in partnership with NSW Government and the University of Wollongong.

Cr Bradbery said the document, launched at NSW Parliament House on 20 March, pitches Wollongong as a city where business and lifestyle grow together and takes a collaborative approach to attracting new businesses, investment and jobs to the city.

Original Article published by Kellie O’Brien on Region Illawarra.


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