A word with Mayor Jim Maher

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A word with Clr Jim Maher -Armidale Dumaresq council mayor

How many tourists visit Armidale over a one year period?
That is an interesting question. In the case of Armidale, I much prefer to talk of the number of ‘visitors’, as we attract many people to Armidale who are here for reasons other than what may be described as ‘tourism’. We attract almost 500,000 visitors per annum, split 51% day and 49% overnight visitors. It is perhaps interesting to note that included in this figure are 10,000 international visitors. The visitor economy is worth some $60 million, with approximately 900,000 visitor nights per annum and so represents a significant sector of the local economy.

Through various marketing initiatives, Council is trying to grow the number of visitors as well as the length of their stay, which will be to the obvious benefit of the community.

Why are we about to experience an influx of visitors? 

2013 marks the sesquicentenary of Armidale. Understandably, this is a significant milestone for our city and one which we plan to celebrate with events throughout the year. The University of New England is also celebrating its 75th anniversary.

January through March is always a particularly busy time in Armidale, with events of all kinds taking advantage of our climate. 2013 is going to be no exception, with events in the calendar which will be of interest to locals and visitors of all ages.

There are a few sporting highlights, including the Parramatta Eels training camp commencing January 29, organised through UNE, culminating with the Eels taking on the Newcastle Knights in a pre-season trial match at Bellevue Oval on Saturday 2 February. Tickets are available through the UNE website. Those diehard League fans can also look forward to the Legends of League returning on the Armidale Autumn Festival weekend, March 16. Hopefully we can look forward to a warm, dry evening this time to enjoy watching the greats of the game!

Once again, I am pleased to say that the Optus Flix in the Stix is returning to Saumarez Homestead on February 23. This event has proved popular with locals in previous years. This year the organisers are hopeful of attracting a record crowd, who will be entertained with live music from The Whitlams as well as the carefully selected, award winning, short films. Tickets are available at Dymocks Bookstore, or online through Ticketek. For those with younger children, the Newcastle Permanent Cinema under the Stars returns to Civic Park on Friday 1 February. Come along with your picnic rug and enjoy one of the modern releases in a great setting!

The Armidale Autumn Festival is one of my personal highlights. There is something for everyone during the course of the weekend, with traditional favourites being the Pancake Breakfast with the Armidale City Band and of course, the Parade with its range of floats representing all quarters of what makes Armidale such a great place to live. I would encourage you to invite friends and relatives who may live out of town to come to Armidale and enjoy the weekend of fun. Don’t forget that the weekend lasts through to the Monday, with the running of the Armidale Cup on 18 March. Renowned to be one of the social events of the year, the Cup appeals not only to the ardent horse racing fans, but to those looking for a party.

March 23 will see the UNE 12 Hours in the Piney in the Pine Forest, with the reigning world champion participating. The New England Mountain Bikers are undertaking great works, creating courses which locals and visitors can enjoy. It will be worth heading out there to watch.

Many of you may have received Christmas presents of tickets to this year’s a day on the green concert at Petersons Winery. Early ticket sales for the inaugural 2012 event broke records for Roundhouse Promotions, and sales for 2013 are well on the way to being sold out. If you haven’t yet purchased yours, then get in quick! Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at the Council Administration Building, Rusden Street.

In many ways, the 2012 event marked Armidale’s coming of age as an events city. When the initial meeting was held at Petersons Winery, with Michael Newton and his team from Roundhouse Promotions, discussions ranged around the ability, or prospects, for Armidale to attract thousands of revellers to a music concert. Where would they come from? What sort of music/acts would be best received? Is this the right venue? What are the logistics in staging an event attracting thousands of people?

Hindsight is, as we know, a great thing! The acts appealed, and locals got behind the event. A day on the green’s loyal fan base were looking for ‘new’ places to go, a ‘new’ weekend away and were prepared to travel from Sydney and further afield to enjoy their short break. The weather was perfect, Edwards buses provided a seamless service, Roundhouse Promotions used their extensive experience, and with their dedicated staff, made sure the show ran like clockwork.

So what for 2013? The task set is so much easier following the successes of 2012. The likes of Neil Finn and Paul Kelly have attracted attention and at the time of writing, over two thirds of the available tickets have been sold.

Why did our retail sector ‘miss out’ during the 2012 a day on the green?

Everyone has a theory on that, but be clear – some did not! I am more than determined that this year they all benefit. Armidale and the surrounding area has so much to offer; we just need to make sure it is available and on tap. Plans are underway which will draw people in the main Mall, especially on Sunday morning and that the party atmosphere continues.

Final word for a day on the green 2013 …

Remember: these visitors are on a holiday, looking to eat, drink and be merry, they will be wanting to buy gifts, and they will be wanting to get under the skin of Armidale. I would ask that the locals do what they do week in and week out, which is to embrace the opportunity to show Armidale at its best and make the visitors feel at home.

This is an opportunity for Armidale to showcase what we have, how we live and to have a few thousand people return home and tell their friends and colleagues about Armidale. What better advertising than that to promote our great city?

Thanks Jim.
This interview was found in issue 68 of New England Focus


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