A day out at the races is what the Corowa Chamber of Commerce hopes will bring people together in a bid to boost the profile of tourism in the region.
Chamber executive officer John Crothers said their exclusive event at the Corowa Race Club meeting on Monday, 6 November, provided a networking opportunity for key business and community members to collaborate on how to put the local region back on the map.
“Unfortunately, we’ve fallen behind areas like Albury Wodonga, Yarrawonga-Mulwala, Wangaratta and those centres in that 50-kilometre range,” Mr Crothers said.
“Some would argue that we’ve drifted 20 years behind some of our neighboring regions.
“As part of trying to gain momentum on our tourism strategy, we put the spotlight on Corowa Race Track, one of our regional assets, and sponsored the day as a means to bring people together to further the dialogue on what we need to do to positively move the needle.”
The race day showcased local businesses with gourmet food and beverages provided by Corowa Whisky and Chocolate, Blue Gum Catering and Club Corowa. It also highlighted the hospitality program offered at the local high school, with several students chosen to look after guests on the day.
Mr Crothers, who has been in his role with the chamber since March, said the group’s future tourism strategy was bigger than just Corowa and needed to incorporate Rutherglen and Wahgunyah.
“Rutherglen already has a global name because of its fortified wines and Wahgunyah has three of the key wineries there on the outskirts of town,” he said.
“We need to be able to wrap our arms around the assets we already have in the region by building on them through providing support, encouragement, enablement and strategic direction and bring out the best in what we’ve already got.”
Mr Crothers hopes that a new name can be developed that captures the essence of the area and hopes the community will get involved in coming up with suggestions.
He has been in discussions with local Indigenous elders and believes ”Bangerang” could be an option for consideration.
“We are trying to achieve a regional focus – not caught up on Corowa or across the river but trying to encapsulate across the region,” he said.
“We want to get a name that is recognisable, but there is a challenge in that as we have three towns which have histories in all their own right.
“As a community, we need to work out what options we can consider that focus on the outside looking in. If someone is coming from Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra, what is going to draw them in?”
Mr Crothers said Corowa’s Sanger Street was an asset that needed investment.
“It’s got an amazing art deco and federation style that is still there. If we worked together to invigorate that, I believe it would draw in visitation and strengthen the community,” he said.
“The race meeting was an opportunity to focus on one of our existing assets and bring the community and business together to continue the dialogue of where we need to go to together.”
Mr Crothers said the chamber had been collaborating closely with the local council, and Federation Council Mayor Pat Bourke and general manager Adrian Butler attended the race day.
He said he would be encouraging a ”blue-ocean” approach in the strategy.
“It’s first about considering a red ocean where companies, people or organisations are competing against one another in a small environment and turning that around and realising that our competition is not here, our competition is outside,” he said.
“It’s those sitting in Melbourne, for example, thinking where do I go for the weekend? Do I go to the Mornington Peninsula, McLaren Vale, or do I go to this region here that we are talking about?
“It’s about changing the lens and using that to drive our purpose and our why and wrapping ourselves around the key strategic areas and then working together on wins and outcomes to get us on the map.”