Joining a club that will have you as a member: Tourism development lesson from Australia

7 Jul

This is yet another posting related to our recent, wonderful dream trip to Australia and New Zealand. Since New Zealand is so much like Oregon, the first three posts have been focused on lessons for the Pacific Northwest based on our experience in New Zealand. But, we also had a unique experience in two parts of Australia, rural Katoomba and urban Sydney, that also have relevance for local tourism development.

Groucho Marx famously said he wouldn’t want to join a club that would have him as a member. Well, I disagree! It seems a common practice in Australia to offer free day passes to member-only establishments if one lives so many kilometers away from the community. We wouldn’t have known this but for local folks telling us. What a fun benefit that yielded unique experiences.

In Katoomba, we learned that Returned Services League (RSL) halls, the Australian equivalents to Veterans Posts, offer day passes to visitors. This provide access to well priced meals and whatever entertainment happens to be scheduled on a given day. While waiting in the Katoomba RSL lounge before dinner one evening, we found that free raffle tickets were issued to all comers. My raffle number was called, which required me to then compete in rolling giant foam dice head to head with a local character! I, who never win anything, won the $50 prize! Then, we had a wonderful Chinese/Aussie fusion dinner with fellow guests from our B and B. Had you told me this would be our evening experience after hiking all day in the Blue Mountain region, I would have laughed. As it turned out, I did!

On a very hot day later in Sydney (43 degrees Celsius, which translates to 11o degrees Fahrenheit- thank goodness we couldn’t quite make the calculation at the time!), we decided to ride the commuter ferry up and down the harbor to try and catch a cool breeze. While chatting with fellow passengers, we learned that the Sydney Rowing Club in Abbotsford was on our route, and that the club also extended complimentary day passes. So we stopped in this hallowed ground of Olympians, passed muster for day passes, and sipped a tall cool drink as the city’s upper crust mingled around us and boats floated by. A great way to pass the afternoon. Here’s my husband John enjoying his “Aussie cobbler” full of passion fruit, lychee and assorted liquids!

Are there “clubs” in your community that could make a special effort to attract visitors seeking a taste of local color and culture? Now that we know this practice exists, we’ll be seeking it out. Perhaps there is an opportunity for a similar draw in your community. And really, the raffle isn’t necessary!