Voice of Real Australia: Why a good public toilet is a necessity for Australia's tourism industry

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Katherine Times editor Chris McLennan.

Tourism authorities focus too much on the mind and not enough on the body.

Number ones and number twos, to be more precise. All of our regions have at least one attraction they like to tart up as much as possible to attract visitors.

Trying to improve on nature is always a necessarily delicate and thereby expensive business, but if you've not solved the toilet problem, in our experience, it just won't work.

The Grampians (western Victoria), Flinders Ranges (SA), Cradle Mountain (Tas.), Gold and Sunshine coasts in Qld or even the fabulous Nitmiluk Gorge here in the Northern Territory - jewels in the tourist crown.

The thinking is that if we - the taxpayers - spend enough to improve visitor enjoyment then the investment will be repaid many times. Save your bucks.

Having spent a few weeks away exploring the most easterly point in the nation (Byron Bay - where Hemsworth spotting is bigger than whale watching), my wife and I reckon country towns need to do more with their public toilets.

Pretty hard concentrating on your tourist feast if you are bouncing from one foot to the other in pain trying to hold on.

We hear the same thing over and over from the grey nomads who can't help but call through Katherine in NT for their winter (dry season) adventure to the Top End.

Katherine is on the crossroads of the NT's major highways, sorry but we have you trapped.

The message is simple:

  • The toilet can be old.
  • The toilet can be away from the main drag. But it must be cleaned and provisioned each day.
  • It must be well sign-posted.
  • There must be parking close by.

If your public toilet is none of these things, then kiss the tourists goodbye.

Even the nomads are well versed on social media these days, families pass on the information from stop to stop.

If you have a crappy toilet, the word soon spreads.

It is just as important as emptying the bins regularly around those businesses trying to cash in this passing trade.

How many of us have shivered in the night at Phillip Island (more Hemsworths) waiting for the fairy penguins to surf in and considered how it would not be possible without an outstanding visitor centre? It's definitely not a Dad thing.

You might not have heard of Goorambat in Victoria but maybe you're familiar with silo art? Well, imagine the reverse of Phillip Island. Thousands of visitors and not a public loo in sight!

And while there are indeed facilities in Mogo, NSW, it could be renamed "Nogo" if you're elderly or disabled.

Even the letter-writers take exception In Bathurst when all's not well at the library because, well, it matters.

Our regions are increasingly challenged to pay for tourism professionals where once we could in the 1980s and 1990s and too often expert advice comes from local government.

Simple advice - remember the toilets, get the basics right. Or invite the Hemsworths on down.

Chris McLennan

Editor, Katherine Times

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