Budget Analysis / Tourism Port Douglas Daintree funding slashed, Douglas Chamber of Commerce funding approved



  • Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) funding slashed by close to 50% – down from $488 000 to $250 000
  • Douglas Chamber of Commerce (DCC) funding approved for $50 000
  • Tourism and Economic Development Officer appointed

Many in the Douglas Shire tourism industry have been left scratching their heads and questioning the future of independent, professional, destination marketing organisation TPDD.

Rhys Bawden, owner of Salsa Port Douglas, commented Tuesday’s announcement of TPDD’s funding cut could, “only be described as an absolutely devastating, narrow-minded decision from a Council that has no real idea of the work TPDD does for our tourism industry.”

The announcement saw the region’s only recognised local tourism organisation, with 162 members representing 184 products, have its funding slashed by close to 50% – down to $250 000 paid quarterly over 12 months.

Volunteer organisation, the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, representing 26 members pre-COVID has been funded $50 000 over 12 months.  Douglas Chamber of Commerce has offered free membership to businesses as a support through COVID, and the new funding will assist the Chamber in rolling out activity in line with their funding KPI’s once determined.

While State Governments have been known to provide support funding to regional Chambers, most recently the Tasmanian Government announced twelve regional Chambers would receive approximately $8 300 each, funding of Chambers by Council is not common.

Mr Bawden also expressed his concern regarding the potential curtailing of TPDD’s independence.  As a former TPDD Board Director, Mr Bawden pointed out TPDD was, “set up to promote tourism under the guidance of its board of business leaders, not to operate as another arm of the Council.” 

Mr Bawden made it clear TPDD was, “answerable to the businesses of the Douglas Shire and what is best for them – not Council.”

Another local business owner, Dr Doug Quarry from Retro Port Douglas apartments, expresses shock and dismay at the reduced funding to TPDD.

“Since our launch, I have received fantastic support from Tara and her team. TPDD has advised on marketing opportunities, introduced me to an international supplier, and more recently we have been in discussion about the WorkSafe Australia guidelines for the COVID-related cleaning of short-term rental apartments. With the upcoming return of some domestic tourism, I was banking on TPDD to be ramping up the great job they do with “destination marketing.” I also feel it is important that TPDD be able to continue international marketing to markets that are more likely to develop travel bubbles with Australia. To cut TPDD funding just when we need them most is inexplicable”

“…an absolutely devastating, narrow-minded decision from a Council that has no real idea of the work TPDD does for our tourism industry.”


In her report to Council, Lisa Golding, Douglas Shire Council’s Team Leader Community and Economic Development proposed:

  • Council enter into an annual agreement with TPDD as opposed to the historical three-year agreement
  • Introduce a new suite of KPI’s and monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting
  • TPDD collaborate closely with the new Tourism and Economic Development Officer (TEDO) to develop flexible and targeted branding and destination marketing aimed at the domestic market

Domestic motivations for travel to Douglas Shire showed the reef and rainforest were less of a drawcard than they were a decade ago with Council believing diversification into adventure and sports tourism was imperative.

While diversification of the tourism offering is universally accepted, both the Great Barrer Reef and Daintree Rainforest motivators still ranked higher than all other touring and activity options in the area.

Ms Golding reported 40% of TPDD expenditure, not including travel for trade shows, was devoted to the international market.  However, as per the TPDD audited annual report, international marketing expenditure last year was 19%.

TPDD expenditure

Ms Golding’s report concluded, “a reduction in financial support to TPDD will not adversely affect their ability to target the increasingly important domestic tourism market,” making no mention of ongoing investment in the international market.

The absence of an international marketing strategy has Mr Bawden concerned.

“In these uncertain times we need to be spending more money on our tourism bodies, not cutting off one of their arms,” arguing although the region would experience a significant drop in international tourism for the next 12 months, “those of us involved in international tourism trends know money spent today, is an 18 to 24-month return on investment,” lamenting, “if we do not continue international marketing, we will see a diminished return in the following two to three years.”   

Upon reading the 2020/2021 Operational Plan, it could be argued Council have significant changes in mind regarding the future of TPDD, noting Council would, “review the governance and funding model of TPDD, refocus the KPI’s of the organisation and build stronger ties with TTNQ.”

Ms Golding’s report also focussed heavily on the future collaboration of TPDD, DCC, and other industry groups, in collaboration with the new TEDO.

DouglasNews.Network has learned Council have recently finalised the TEDO position. The position, restructured into a job share role, sees the appointment of Mary Martin, owner of Mist at Cape Tribulation and current DSC Media and Communications Officer Amy Mail, taking on the future of economic development in the Shire together.

The motion to reduce TPDD’s funding as per Council Officers recommendations passed 4/1, but not before Cr Noli put forward an amendment, seconded by Cr Zammataro, to restore TPDD’s funding to the 2019/2020 level and roll out a three-year agreement.

The amendment did not pass.

Before voting on the original motion, Mayor Kerr noted, “TPDD also needs the Chamber.  It’s one thing to get the tourists here, but if they don’t enjoy themselves … they won’t come back.”

However, Central Queensland University Port Douglas and Daintree Visitor Survey results found 97.7% of respondents indicated they would recommend the region to others, illustrating an exceptionally high level of satisfaction by visitors. Additionally, Port Douglas and Daintree topped the list of destinations around the world for satisfied and happy visitors in 2019, according to leading strategic consultants Destination Think! 

When the original motion to reduce TPDD’s funding went to the vote, Cr’s Kerr, McKeown and Scomazzon voted in favour of the agreement. Cr Noli also chose to favour of the agreement, advising she had only voted to pass the motion, which she felt was “a done deal” as she wanted TPDD, “to have something, at least something.” Cr Zammataro voted against the motion.




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Cathie Jones
3 years ago

It’s a sad day for Port Douglas and the region. The TPDD team have worked extremely hard marketing Douglas Shire to Australia and the World. As a previous member on the board to the Chamber of Commerce, I support them receiving a grant, however, they are not a marketing arm but are there to support business. We found it difficult to get local business to sign up for membership as “they”expected everyone else to do the running around for them for nothing. I hope the appointed officers have a vast range of knowledge on how the industry works or we will see investment leaving the Douglas Shire and families and workers if there are no jobs. Remember Tourism is 80% of the shire’s income. We may be left with an old marina, hundreds of empty apartments and hotels and no jobs for local families.