A significant amount of public money has been spent on regional tourism through the Royalties for Regions program, but prior to this study no evaluation had been made of how effective and efficient this investment has been
Synergies used a robust qualitative and quantitative evaluation framework to assess the relative success of the program.
A “6 A’s of Tourism” framework was used to evaluate the program.
Evaluation results show investment into certain types of tourism projects provide greater economic benefits than others.
Key insights were uncovered about the conditions required for successful catalysing of tourism growth.
Over the past 10 years, Royalties for Regions (RfR) has provided $208 million in funding for regional tourism projects in Western Australia, with a wide diversity of projects being funded across nine development regions. Synergies undertook an evaluation to provide insight to the extent to which the RfR investments have contributed to economic growth and what factors need to be considered for future public investment in regional tourism.
There is a range of factors and principles that should be considered when targeting public investment to promote regional tourism, economic growth and socially sustainable outcomes. Without a sound, evidence-based investment strategy accompanied by a framework for monitoring outcomes, investments may be poorly targeted and ineffective at promoting regional benefits.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) tasked Synergies with evaluating the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of past RfR investments in tourism. We were asked to used the findings to develop clear recommendations on how future investment strategy should be designed.
Evaluating tourism investment
To evaluate RfR investments, we considered the following key evaluation questions (KEQs):
Economic and social contribution – to what extent has RfR investment in tourism contributed towards increasing tourism and economic growth in regional areas?
Effectiveness – what types of investments have been most effective in terms of delivering beneficial outcomes? Were the investment initiatives implemented efficiently? Where has investment been most effective?
Appropriateness – was investment well-designed and targeted to meet objectives? Could investment be made in a different way for better outcomes?
To address these questions, the evaluation was structured around the ‘6 A’s of tourism’ framework, which describes key factors responsible for tourism success – attractions, activities, access, accommodation, amenities and awareness. A representative 15 projects, which had received a combined $134 million in RfR funding, were analysed in detail. The sample covering a range of regions, investment types, and size,
A combination of quantitative and qualitative measures were used. As a first step, the projects were evaluated against several performance indicators. Then the projects were evaluated against each of the KEQs, using a balanced scorecard method. This involved a 15 point scorecard, where each project was scored using standard criteria pertaining to appropriateness, effectiveness and economic contribution. This assessment was informed by a review of Summary Investment Proposals, project acquittal reports, consultations with project proponents and other stakeholders, site visits, and the findings from the indicator analysis.
We also analysed visitor sentiment data from TripAdvisor to build up a picture of whether there has been a significant improvement in sentiment following project completion.
In addition to the ‘deep dive’ evaluation of projects, We used Input-Output economic modelling to compare the relative economic impact, across the regions, of an additional $10 million in expenditure by visitors in each region (should the RfR projects be successful in catalysing this level of increased tourism). The purpose of this analysis was to assess the relative value of tourism in different regions that have differing economies.
It was found that most of the assessed projects (10 out of the 15 assessed) have generated positive impacts, as measured through one or more of the relevant performance indicators. However, in most cases the beneficial effects are related to the delivery of tourism ‘enablers’, as opposed to observable increases in visitor numbers. Whilst the stated objective of most projects was to grow visitor numbers over time, few projects had the direct aim of stimulating visitation directly in the short term.
Projects aimed at creating or improving regional attractions were assessed as having delivered the most tangible benefits to regions. However, just 10% of the projects funded, by value, were targeted at improving attractions.
By comparison, around half the funding under the program was targeted at marketing and events – despite the evaluation indicating that “awareness” projects scored poorly, on average. Marketing can generate exposure for a region but on the basis of projects evaluated in this study, marketing has not translated into material increases in visitation.
Synergies’ report was very well received by DPIRD and each of the State’s regional development commissions.
DPIRD provided the following feedback: “the evaluation is being used really well to direct tourism investment. Projects coming through for consideration are definitely showing a shift of focus away from marketing and toward access and amenity improvement.”