Council push to attract tourists to Parramatta

Parramatta has more heritage value than Tasmania’s Port Arthur yet past attempts to attract tourists have fallen short, says deputy mayor Paul Garrard.

Councillor Garrard made the comment before a unanimous vote last week to establish a dedicated tourism committee to promote the city as a leisure destination.

At the March 24 council meeting, Cr Garrard said Parramatta had ‘‘more heritage probably than Norfolk Island or Port Arthur’’ but the success of previous strategies to attract visitors had been limited due to the lack of a dedicated person to oversee them.

‘‘There’s a tendency that we’ve been far behind the times here,’’ Cr Garrad said.

Councillor Andrew Wilson agreed it was important to find a designated person to oversee the tourism plan who ‘‘knows the workings of Parramatta intimately” and can actively sell the region to visitors.

“It’s [been] a bit like watching the under-5s play football: no one passes ... you don’t get the co-ordination,’’ Cr Wilson said of previous attempts to attract tourists.

Lord mayor John Chedid said the visitor strategy aimed to build on Parramatta’s potential to be both a national and international tourist destination.

‘‘The story of Sydney is incomplete without a visit to Parramatta,’’ Cr Chedid said.

‘‘We are particularly keen to promote our riverfront as a tourist attraction as we are Sydney’s only CBD on a river.’’

Cr James Shaw said the council should take advantage of the area’s ‘‘considerable heritage’’ at sites like the Parramatta Female Factory to increase activity around them as well as protect them.

Parramatta Chamber president Roger Byrne welcomed the resolution to establish the committee and said Parramatta's historical relevance and heritage significance had been "under-utilised" for too long.

"It needs a concerted effort by all interested parties," Mr Byrne said.

"While the city boasts some of the country’s most important historical elements and in particular architecture, Parramatta has been built on the back of commerce and enterprise and as such the historical elements take a back seat to the commercial focus of the city," he said.

The economic development tourism committee will include councillors and key organisations will be invited to join, including Sydney Living Museums, Parramatta Park Trust, Venues NSW, Destination NSW, Sydney Ferries, local hotels and restaurants, the Parramatta Chamber of Commerce, Parramatta & Districts Historical Society and the Australian Turf Club as well as local heritage campaigner June Bullivant OAM.

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