Sean Haylan is the General Manager of Destination Southern NSW (DSNSW). DSNSW is a regional, industry focused tourism body, driving the visitor economy in the south east of NSW. I caught up with Sean and had a great chat around the growing recognition of the tourism sector as a powerhouse industry. A sector that embraces positive attitude over skill set, offering employment to people who are often overlooked within other sectors. We also chat about distribution channels and the need to be adaptable and present in the digital space. The benefit of collaboration is another favourite topic of mine that we discuss. Sean explains to listeners why networking and partnerships are essential for all small business owners.
Positive Attitude Verses Skill Set
Tourism is replacing traditional sectors, such as agriculture and mining, in terms of small business development and employment opportunities at both the state and national level. According to Sean, regionally it’s a huge, relatively low-cost opportunity for low skilled employment. Meaning employees may not be skilled specifically in the area they are recruited for. Having a positive attitude seems to trump a person’s skill set, with the impact a staff member has on the visitor experience viewed as the most important factor. Sean admits that there is still a need for qualifications, but explains that most skills can be taught, whereas a positive attitude is often ingrained and can be difficult to change.
The Growth of Tourism in Regional Areas
Times are hard and business owners in regional towns have realised that they can’t rely only on their local community to sustain their business. There is an increasing acceptance that visitors are an important asset and an important market for regional businesses. This realisation has led to the growth of agri-tourism experiences. Whether it’s watching a sheep get shorn, picking cherries in an orchard, or chatting to a winemaker in a boutique cellar door. Sean explains that it’s the regional destinations offering these types of experiences that are witnessing an increase in visitation.
The Benefits of Collaboration
On the flip side to positive attitude trumping skill sets, there is still a need for access to skilled people who can help business owners keep abreast of change, especially in the digital space. Sean and I have a great laugh about finally getting a handle on one digital platform, to find everyone’s moved onto another. To combat this, Sean encourages forming alliances with other small business owners and sharing strengths and resources. Sean provides some great tips on how business owners can meet like-minded individuals. He also provides great advice to tourism operators around paying commissions to Online Travel Agents (OTA’s) and how partnering with OTA’s can help put your business in front of a large global audience, for a relatively low cost.
Also, in this week’s podcast
In this episode Sean and I also discuss:
- Sean’s extensive career in the tourism industry
- The power of social media for regional tourism operators
- The role of Destination Southern NSW in growing the visitor economy
- The cost of retaining customers verses attracting new ones
- Working on your business verse working in your business
- Tips for working smarter not harder
- Sharing tips and tricks to benefit everyone
- Discovering your own backyard
- Unique accommodation experiences replacing ageing country motels
- Focus on the visitor experience as a primary business goal
- The need to be ‘on show’ in the service industry
- Finding inspiration to stay motivated
- The importance of listening to your elders